Dozens of people stepped forward Monday to improve all Alaskans' lives by taking a stance against child abuse and sexual assault.

The Southcentral Foundation's Child Abuse Awareness Walk was the reason for Monday's stroll around the Alaska Native Medical Center.

"We want it ended; I'm proud of Alaska Native people rising up and breaking silence," said foundation President Katherine Gottlieb, among those who shared their stories about child abuse and sexual assault.

"We had barricaded the doors with everything we could find," said Dr. Mara Kimmel, the wife of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, recalling an encounter years ago in a cabin near Fairbanks. "Because my best friend's husband was coming after her, and we didn't know where he was, we didn't know what to do."

"Domestic violence, child abuse is not an Alaska Native/American Indian problem; it's a human problem," said Lu-Anne Haukaas with the foundation's Family Wellness Warriors initiative, which works with victims.

"We go to the root, we look at the root, because oftentimes we find that trauma, that violence, that abuse, that's just a cycle that keeps repeating itself," Haukaas said. "So, we want to get to the root of that, and share our stories, so that we can heal and stop that cycle of violence."

As a survivor herself, Haukaas speaks from experience.

"I experienced child sexual abuse from the ages of 5, all the way up to around 16 years old," Haukaas said.

It took her about seven years to tell her story.

"People held things in secret," Haukaas said. "And so I held that story in secret until I came actually here, to Southcentral Foundation, and I've been able to share my story in safety."

These people also want to help victims of sexual assault and child abuse, one step at a time.

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