KBIC events shine light on sex assault issues

BARAGA – The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community will be wasting no time recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

They’ll be holding the first of a series of events and promotions April 1, when members of the Tribal Council, the KBIC Police Department and Sexual Assault Advisory Board will gather from noon to 2 p.m. at the tribal center to help kick off a Teal Ribbon Campaign, with ribbons available for community members to tie to their vehicles to show their awareness.

The KBIC will also host a Walk to End Sexual Assault April 11, as well as a public awareness campaign on its tribally-owned radio stations and a Stamp Out Sexual Assault promotion in partnership with local businesses.

Survivor Advocate Liana Loonsfoot of the KBIC Office of Violence Against Women said Tuesday the campaign is important due to the high incidence of sexual assault Native Americans suffer.

“We know Native Americans are more susceptible to being victimized,” she said Thursday. “They’re five times more at risk than non-natives for any kind of assault over lifetime.”

The Zaagibashagaabawing – or Step out of the Darkness – walk will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. April 11, beginning in the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College parking lot.

Loonsfoot said the theme for the walk has a double meaning. First, it highlights the statistic that most sexual assaults occur between midnight and 6 a.m. – in the dark. Second, she said it’s about beginning conversations on a topic that’s long been avoided.

“One thing that happens is victims have been taught, maybe by the perpetrator, not to talk, to hold on to it,” Loonsfoot said. “We want to get the community talking about it and hearing those words that can be hard to talk about.”

Loonsfoot said the event is open to non-tribal members as well, and that there will be free food and some giveaways, as well as posters along the walk route to help stimulate thought and conversation.

One important thing she hopes tribal members learn from this month’s events is that the KBIC Office of Violence Against Women has resources to help victims of assault, including the Niimi Gimiwang shelter for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking.

The shelter is for women, but the office can also find ways to help victims who are men if necessary.

“We would never turn anyone away,” she said. “We will find a way to service anyone.”

For help, call 353-4599.

Elsewhere in the Copper Country, Dial Help and the Michigan Technological University Center for Diversity and Inclusion have been scheduling events and programming focused on sexual assault awareness throughout the year.

But to recognize awareness month, they’ll also be teaming up with the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter to host a screening of the documentary “Tough Guise 2,” which explores the connection between manhood and violence, 7:30 p.m. April 10, in room 135 Fisher Hall on the Tech campus.

“That’s an issue that’s an elephant in the room sometimes, that most violence is committed by men,” said Kevin Weir, sexual violence prevention program coordinator at Dial Help.

Last December, Dial Help held its “Healthy Man” competition to promote positive, nonviolent attitudes toward masculinity. That competition used a beard competition to build fun, and mixed it with some serious thinking about healthy masculinity.

Michigan Tech held a Responsible Relationship Awareness Week in September, which used hand-decorated T-shirts to spread messages about sexual assault, respect and consent.

Weir said Dial Help also hosts a year-round men’s leadership group – search Men Matter on Facebook to become involved – and a women’s sexual assault survivors support group. To learn more about the women’s group, or for someone to talk to in a crisis, call 482-HELP.

Women who need a place to escape a sexually or physically abusive situation can get help at the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home, call 337-5623.