The sun came out on Thursday as about 30 people gathered for the “Choose Respect” march in Dillingham.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are pervasive in Bristol Bay and across the state. According to an Alaska Victimization Survey, in 2015 half of all Alaskan women experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both.
“It’s really what’s holding us back in Dillingham. It’s really what’s causing the cycle of violence, and cycle of drugs and alcohol to continue,” Gregg Marxmiller said. Marxmiller is the education and outreach coordinator for SAFE, the shelter for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Bristol Bay. “It’s the ugliest thing in our community. We can be better, and we can do better.”
This march was just one of many that have taken place across Alaska. Nine years ago, former governor Sean Parnell started “Choose Respect” marches as part of an initiative to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence in the state.
Lucinda Zamir was at the Dillingham march on Friday and said that showing people that there are options and support is why events like the “Choose Respect” marches matter.
“Domestic violence, intimate partner violence and so many other things are just quietly tolerated when people probably don’t realize that they have a voice, that they can speak up, that they should speak up and that they shouldn’t just tolerate people treating them poorly, no matter what it is,” Zamir said.
Marchers pointed, not only to the problem of violence in Bristol Bay, but also to a solution.
“We need to go back to what the elders said. We need to educate. Let’s educate by demonstration or by choosing respect,” Thomas Tilden, Curyung Tribal Council chief, said.
Thursday’s march showed that Dillingham residents will continue to raise their voices to confront domestic violence and sexual assault.