They took to the streets to tackle a difficult issue with a simple idea — “choose respect.”
On Wednesday, about 40 marchers — holding signs with slogans like “Alaska: Teach Respect” and “Respect is an Alaskan Value” — made their way along Frontage Road to the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center to draw attention to power-based violence, such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, teen-dating violence and child and elderly abuse.
“Today our community is coming together to represent that we choose respect,” Renee Lipps, LeeShore prevention coordinator, said.
Hosted by the LeeShore Center, a nonprofit providing services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the march was a part of the Alaskans Choose Respect Awareness Event, and gathered community advocates, board members, LeeShore employees and individuals, including those who have personally experienced domestic violence.
“We have victims that have made it out the other side, so they’re here to show their solidarity in choosing respect,” Lipps said.
The “Choose Respect” movement was spearheaded nine years ago by the Council of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Alaska Department of Public Safety to combat domestic violence across the state.
The LeeShore has hosted a march every year since then, and plans to keep up the tradition, Executive Director Cheri Smith said.
“I know in our community it’s always been very well attended,” Smith said. “We have a lot of support. It’s just a way for us to really talk about prevention, talk about what’s happening in our community, and just have a really great awareness of this.”
Marchers were escorted by representatives from local law enforcement, including Kenai and Soldotna police officers and state troopers.
Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik joined the march to show his personal support for the campaign to choose respect.
“We support it as a police department and I believe in it personally,” Mlynarik said.
Mlynarik hopes that by emphasizing the importance of treating others respectfully, the community can help prevent domestic violence before it happens.
“If you choose respect, you don’t get to that point where you have (to involve) law enforcement,” Mlynarik said.
The march was followed by a luncheon and presentations by speakers, including local experts on domestic violence and sexual assault and Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna), who sent a video address.