By Gov. Sean Parnell
For the past three years, March has been the month for Alaskans to march.
We march together to end the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault that has plagued our state for decades. We march for safe homes and strong communities.
This year, we marched again because we will not rest until all Alaskans are freed from fear of harm.
On March 28, Alaskans showed victims and survivors that we stand for them. In more than 140 communities, we pulled on our boots, zipped up our parkas, and took up banners to add voices to the cause of safe homes, strong families, and respectful communities.
The Choose Respect initiative is about all Alaskans. This year, it is especially about children. Every child who is exposed to domestic violence or sexual assault is a child who has suffered adversity. These adversities pile up on children, like water filling a glass, until the stress is too much to bear, and the water spills over.
We see the impacts of repeated adverse childhood experiences in schools, in shelters for runaway or homeless youth, in the workplace, on the streets, and in the courtroom.
The cycle of violence must end; we must shield Alaska’s children from these traumatizing experiences and create the kind of Alaska we envision, one where our children are valued, one without family violence.
The history of violence in families is all too common. For some, like mine, the abuse ended a generation ago. For others, the harm continues today. For those who are currently being victimized, my mission as governor and as a fellow Alaskan is to make sure you are able to seek safety now. Our goal is that every Alaskan finds a safe way to end the violence in this generation.
We stand with you in your escape from domestic violence and we stand with you on this journey of healing – healing individuals, families, communities, and our state.
If you’ve experienced violence toward you, your children, or other loved ones, I hope you will read hope in these words. Together we will end this epidemic.
Help is available. You deserve a life free of fear and harm. Your safety may depend on others standing up and protecting you. As governor, I call on all Alaskans to stand up and speak up.
This legislative session represents the fourth in a row where I’ve introduced legislation to increase protections for Alaskans. We submitted a comprehensive crime bill addressing domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking. Our legislation will enhance protections for children, increase penalties for the demand side of sex trafficking, increase protections for victims from further trauma, toughen criminal sentencing and expand investigative tools for law enforcement.
While laws to protect Alaskans are important, so is prevention, which is why I added funding for efforts preventing violence against Alaskans. Coaching Boys Into Men is one such program now growing across the state.
Prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault is most successful when it is community-driven. It happens in our neighborhoods, schools, businesses and on our streets.
And on March 28, prevention is as easy as donning your jacket and joining fellow Alaskans at a Choose Respect rally. By participating in the march, you help change the social norms that condone violence. You bring back the traditional value of respect.
You, with one act of kindness and support, can change the fabric of Alaska.
For more information on the Choose Respect march, or to find help, please see our web site at chooserespect.alaska.gov.
Gov. Sean Parnell has served Alaska since 2009 when appointed by resigning Gov. Sarah Palin. He launched the Choose Respect Initiative in 2010.
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