A new short film from Sitka’s domestic violence shelter explores prevention from an unexpected angle: camping and kayaking.

REBOUND is the name of the film and the program, which completed its third season early this summer. Although it has included boys in the past, REBOUND this year brought together nine high-school age girls for an extended kayaking trip in Southeast Alaska. The lessons in the program range from basic camping skills — like creating a bear hang for food — to how to live and work cooperatively with no communication to the outside world and, more importantly, with no shampoo.

Anne Brice spent last winter as KCAW’s post-graduate fellow in community journalism. She’s now a prevention specialist with Sitkans Against Family Violence. Brice produced the film REBOUND. She and prevention director Julia Smith take us behind the scenes.

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I think it’s important for girls to understand why they should be respected, why we have power….

Julia Smith: “Most of the individuals, in this year and years past, have never spent this much time in the backcountry. Even though many of them live in rural communities, they’ve never had an opportunity to really experience the outdoors without a lot of amenities. So we’re backcountry camping for five days, and it’s challenging.”

I don’t really know much about life outside my home, and outside of my family, who have supported me my whole life….

Smith: “We see some breakdowns halfway through the trip. It’s emotionally challenging, it’s physically challenging. But by the end of the trip, many of them this year said things like, I’ve always wanted to camp, and now I know how to. Some of them said this trip helped them redefine themselves. And many of them felt like, because of the experience, they now have a better sense of what they want to do in the next chapter in their lives.”

It was very challenging. Me and Lily, we were paddling very, very hard, but still (laughs) we would get behind….

Anne Brice: “Watching it over and over, I was just struck by how funny all of the girls were, and how honest they were. They were just really nice to each other. You hear high school girls can be catty, and not that nice to each other. That’s the opposite of what was happening.”

Respect to me means showing that you care, no matter what you do….

Smith: “They just have no idea what they’re getting into. It doesn’t matter how much you try to prepare them for going into the backcountry and how you’re going to use the bathroom, and the fact that there are no showers, and No you can’t wash your hair in the ocean — all of these are new concepts to them. In past years we’ve been on our boat, and we’re literally about to get dropped off into the backcountry and I’ve had girls say, Hey, can I bring this? And it’s a bottle of Pert shampoo, 12 ounces big.”

I learned how to become a better leader….

Brice: “It was interesting to hear their low points and their high points. You could tell. In their voices you could hear it.”

I also learned a lot about camping.

Smith: “Another day when we were in the rain for 12 hours, one of the funniest moments on the trip was when one of our participants said, Isn’t it ironic that the only dry article of clothing I have is my bathing suit?”

I’ve regained a sense of my own capabilities. I would really like to empower others around me, and to continue to empower myself.