Bagpipers led Choose Respect marchers in Anchorage today. The annual event is aimed at heightening awareness of Alaska’s blight of sexual assault while gathering support for the state administration’s campaign against domestic violence.
The march kicked off at noon. Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and other state and city notables led the march, all helping to hold a Choose Respect banner the three blocks to the city’s Town Square. They were joined by church and civic groups, and city workers spending their lunch break for a cause
The North wind was biting, the temperatures low, and the mood somber in light of the recent death of a Hooper Bay woman at the hands of an abuser. Treadwell told rally goers at the finish of the march that Alaska’s epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault will end when the silence protecting abuse ends. Treadwell spoke at a podium overlooking what is normally the square
“And I want to live in a generation where we don’t hide domestic violence, sexual assault, these issues in the family, in our families, in our homes any longer. That we bring it out in the open, that we work with the social services. And you know, if that happens, our numbers may go up, before they go down. We may feel worse before we get better, but we are gonna get better, and that’s what I know, that you coming out today, is going to help make happen. “
Senator Murkowski added her remarks shortly afterwards. Before taking the podium, Murkowski has been approaced by Alaska Native activist Desa Jacobson, who protested that funds spent on the rally would have been better spent on rural village protection. Murkowski alluded to the incident, saying that she was ashamed that Alaska leads the nation in violence against women
“I am ashamed that we are the rape capitol of the nation. Everything that we are doing is reactive. It’s after the fact. It’s after these women and these children have been violated, It’s after their lives have been ruined. Because long after that perpetrator has served his time, or paid his fine, or moved on with his life, that woman, that victim is living with that trauma for the rest of her life.. if she’s alive. “
Despite the cold, marchers waved colorful signs, the sun came out and free coffee and sandwiches were offered. But the crowd was reminded of the rally’s grim purpose, when a young Juneau woman, introduced only by her first name, Connie, gave a first hand account of her efforts to escape an abusive marriage.
“For me, in my situation, an inquisitive person told me ‘that’s not normal in a marraige.’ That statement started me on a path towards ending my rationalizations. These are rationalizations that said, for over ten years ‘he didn’t really mean to say that to me. He’ll get better, and if I just do more of anything, if I just cook more, if I just work harder, things will change.’ I told myself to cope. Statistics show that the rate of intimate partner homicides goes up dramatically if a person threatens to kill themselves, threatens to kill somebody else, or they use a weapon in an altercation. I’m here to say today that I rationalized all three of these situations away, in my story.”
Treadwell told the group that silence about domestic violence only condones it. He said choosing respect means getting involved – and he askedthe crowd to make a pledge
“You can repeat after me. I pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women, men, children, the elderly and the vulnerable. So help us God. Thank you very much.”