In what has become an annual event, the Choose Respect March took place Wednesday afternoon in Kenai. Dozens of participants made the walk along Frontage Road to the Kenai Visitors Center, where they were joined by many more voices raising awareness of domestic violence issues.
“I know in our community it’s always been very well attended,” Cheri Smith, LeeShore Center executive director, told the Clarion. “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.”
Unfortunately, the numbers show the need for the continued efforts to raise awareness. According to the Alaska Victimization Study, first conducted on 2010 and repeated in 2015, about half of all women in Alaska have experienced sexual violence, intimate partner violence or both.
Take a moment to think about that statistic. If you have two daughters, or two sisters, or two female co-workers or friends, chances are that one of them has experienced or will experience domestic violence. The thought should make us all shudder.
However, attitudes toward domestic violence are changing — the change is slow, but it is happening. For a long time, it has been taboo to talk about domestic violence; the prevailing attitude has been that it’s not anyone else’s businesses what goes on behind closed doors.
There are a number of efforts under way to help prevent domestic violence. One such effort is the Green Dot Program, which was launched on the central Kenai Peninsula by the LeeShore Center five years ago. The goal of the program is to change red dots — acts of domestic violence — into green dots, representing an action taken to prevent domestic violence. The program provides “bystander training” to teach community members ways to intervene where there is the potential for abuse.
We hope there comes a day when a Choose Respect event isn’t necessary to raise awareness of an issue that affects so many people. But until then, we’re heartened to see attiudes changing and more people willing to engage in finding solutions and curbing violence.