Violence Prevention Conference focuses on practical strategies

Rachel Alexander

Walla Walla’s Violence Prevention Coalition hosted their second annual conference at Whitman on Tuesday, March 27. The conference included a variety of workshops presented by community experts which addressed topics ranging from gang violence to child sexual abuse.

In addition to daytime sessions on campus, this year’s conference included evening sessions at St. Patrick Parish which were designed to be more accessible to community members.

“It was an enormous success,” said Chetna Chopra, adjunct professor of general studies and member of the WWVPC Steering Committee, in an email. “Attendance surpassed our expectations, both here on campus, and at St. Patrick Church, where over 150 people turned out for dinner and our evening presentations. People traveled to the conference from across the state – in fact, across state lines – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Dr. Vincent Felitti presented the conference keynote address on the evening of Monday, March 26. Felitti pioneered the practice of using adverse childhood experiences, such as having incarcerated relatives or being abused, to holistically understand and treat health problems later in life. He spoke about the ways in which drug abuse, violent behavior and overeating can all serve as coping strategies for dealing with childhood trauma.

“It’s hard to get enough of something that almost works,” he said.

Felitti’s research, which began in 1994, has demonstrated that there is a significant correlation between traumatic childhood events and health problems later in life, including heart disease, suicide risk and several types of cancer. His talk underscored the ways in which childhood encounters with violence can alter the course of a person’s life.

With this in mind, Chopra said that the focus of this year’s conference was on giving attendees practical skills to use in their day-to-day lives.

“This year, presenters committed to offering concrete solutions and strategies in their talks, whether the talk was about effective parenting skills or asserting one’s rights as a crime victim,” she said.

Whitman has provided financial and logistical support to the Violence Prevention Conference, both for this year and last year’s events.

“I believe Whitman has a responsibility to be a leader in the community on a variety of issues. We can share resources, including space that enables groups to convene public meetings and conferences about violence and its prevention,” said Whitman College President George Bridges in an email.

Chalese Rabidue, a victim’s advocate with the Walla Walla Police Department, said that these conference sessions empower attendees to bring the skills they learn back to their communities.

“All the great speaker and all the great ideas the come about because of the conference really inspire you to do more,” she said.

She was especially happy with the fact that almost all conference speakers were local experts from the Walla Walla area.

Rabidue said that the Violence Prevention Committee is starting work on next year’s conference. They hope to make it an annual event which gives professionals in a number of different fields useful tools to address violence.

“As much work as it is, I think it’s such important work. It’s great that we can provide that to our communities,” she said