Sexual Harassment in Alaska Panel Continues Pursuit of Equality and Safety

    Juneau, AK (KINY) - The University of Alaska Southeast teamed up with 360 North to bring together four women to discuss the issue of sexual harassment in Alaska.

    Panelists included Senator Anna MacKinnon, Representative Ivy Sponholtz, Nicole Hallingstad who is the Director of Operations at the National Congress of American Indians, and Keli Hite McGee, who is the Human Resources Director at the University of Alaska. The conversation was moderated by former representative Beth Kerttula.  

    While there is a ton of terrible news circulating daily about a state leader or a celebrity being accused or found of harassment, there is hope to be had through unity, education, and accountability.

    Kerttula spoke on how more and more sexual (and other types of) harassment stories are brought to light.

    “I was pretty shocked after many celebrities started coming forward; I don’t want to talk about the case, but I want to talk about just the sense of this is a worse problem maybe than I even thought it was.”

    “Alaska has terrible statistics as we all know. For Native Alaskan women, shockingly, they are almost 10% more likely to be assaulted than white women. I want to turn to how do we work with people who have been harassed, been assaulted? How do we change the process? One thing I've seen happening right now that I think is a really good step forward, is that I think people are being believed, maybe for the first time.”

    Sponholtz spoke on the opportunity that could inspire change.

    “We have a real opportunity right now to reshape the discussion and I think that's part of what's happening at this cultural moment. There have been moments, brief flickers, in the past where we uncovered sexual harassment or sexual assault epidemics within institutions, organizations, communities that we weren't able to gain traction on over the long run and I think what is different now is that women are in the discussions about how to respond to these things in ways that we weren't 30 or 40 years ago.”

    “There are more women that are apart of editorial boards, HR departments, leadership and political organizations, all places, and that’s not enough, but it’s enough to shine our light and our experiences on that.”

    It was also asked if the millennial generation might have more of an impact on reducing sexual harassment than previous generations have. Senator McKinnon spoke on having quite a bit of faith in that generation.

    “Millennials are ready to take on the world. They want equity, they want equality, they want to have all that we have and more.”

    “So I think that they will push us, whether or not we continue this conversation, I think the Millennials that are on the ground already are opening up doors for those of us who are a bit older to see the inequity that we have lived with for a while.”

    Hallingstad talked about teaching children and staying open both as a listener and as a speaker.

    “Part of involving everybody and keeping sort of our open ears and our open hearts about this is paying attention to what we're teaching our kids.”

    “Keep your ears and your hearts open and be the best example that you can be.”

    McGee said to make change, there has to be that unparalleled want for it.

    “I think for us to be really credible and that we want to see change, we have to sincerely want change.”

    “That has to be our intent and we have to improve our capabilities to ensure that that's happening and that people know that. Ultimately our results needs to be better. We need to be, our responses need to be better, and our actions need to be better and I think that's where we're going.”

    MacKinnon said that the power for change lies in working as a group to make something happen.

    “I have always believed that together we can make a difference.”

    “It's how I sign most of the letters that I sign. It is within your grasp to provide a good day for anyone just by connecting eye to eye and hearing, by listening, by reporting, by holding people accountable, whether it's through Grace that you report someone and then try to help them be a better man or a better woman and how they deal with people.”

    “It's about power and you have it.”

    To find the full discussion, look for the archived video on 360 North.


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