Dozens of people gathered at the Alaska Native Medical Center for the Southcentral Foundation’s kickoff to Domestic Violence Awareness month.

That’s an issue Polly Andrews faced at home as a child.

“I not only experienced the harm of witnessing domestic violence but the silence that came with that and holding on to my story alone,” Andrews said.

It took 27 years before she felt comfortable enough to tell others about what she saw and learned many had similar experiences.

STAR—Standing Together Against Rape—reports 75 percent of Alaskans have experienced domestic violence themselves or know someone who has.

“When we come together like this, we give courage to others to be able to voice their stories and it's when you voice your story and share your story in a safe environment that the healing can begin,” Andrews said.

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson also shared her story of childhood trauma.

ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. It has a list of 10 questions that ask if a person experienced verbal or physical abuse, if someone in their house was an alcoholic or addict and if there was sexual abuse.

She told the crowd how she scored a nine out of 10.

“The only one I missed is I didn’t have a parent who was incarcerated,” Davidson said. “The ACEs survey is not a test you want to ace. It’s not one you want to get 90 percent on.”

Davison said she wanted people to know they are more than just statistics.

“It can be really hard to stand alone in that harsh light of judgment when other people are a little bit nervous. But this incredible thing happens. When you're the person who stands up and you stand there first, you're not standing alone for very long if you're standing for the right reason,” she said.

Drummers led a walk around the health campus as people carried supportive signs and dance fans.

For Andrews, the walk symbolizes a step forward with people making choices to end the cycle of violence and abuse.

“When I see us together like this, I see a community that has woven itself together to be tight-knit, to be a part of the solution to ending domestic violence. I see a community coming together to have a voice in saying, ‘I am a part of ending violence, I am a part of healing my community.’”

STAR has a statewide crisis line for people who need resources or help to get out of dangerous situations: 800-478-8999.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

RELATED LINKS: