About eighty members of the local community joined local and state officials last Thursday to participate in the third "Choose respect" march and rally in Kenai. According to Barbara Waters of the LeeShore Center who coordinated the event this year Kenai was one of 123 communities in Alaska participating in Governor Sean Parnell's call to end domestic violence in Alaska by getting involved and choosing respect. "Alaska still ranks number one in domestic violence and sexual assault crimes and we are committed to changing that ugly distinction in support of the Governor," said Waters.
After pausing for prayer Kenai Mayor Pat Porter joined Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, and Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Baldwin Hultberg in leading the march from the Kenai Clock to the Visitors and Cultural Center. Carrying the banner that read "Choose Respect Alaskans Ending the Epidemic of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault" with a Kenai Police escort the marchers solemnly made their way down Frontage Rd. The marchers gathered in the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center where Commissioner of Administration Becky Hultberg brought brief remarks on behalf of Governor Parnell. "Choose Respect is about shining a bright light on this terrible epidemic of domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse that we have in our community and providing an opportunity for community leaders to stand up, unite, and say no more of this in our community as well as giving victims and survivors of domestic violence a message that we are here for you and will support you. Many times those of us who have been raised in a loving home we like to think not our neighbors, not our friends and that just may not be true and one thing that we can all do is engage in relationships with our friends and neighbors so that we know that they are okay or that if there was a problem they would feel comfortable in coming to talk to us, it has to be a responsibility for each of us to get involved whether it's with the LeeShore Center or other organizations in our community doing that work and realizing that we are all born deserving respect," said Hultberg.
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said simply that it's a matter of treating everyone the way we'd like to be treated even if they're not treating us that way. Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said he had learned respect and non-violence having been raised with six brothers and 4 sisters, remarks that underscored with humor what respect at home is all about. Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche called for a cultural change that just won't tolerate domestic violence and sexual assault any longer and then put his ConocoPhillips hat on to present to Barbara Waters on behalf of the LeeShore Center a check for $2,500 to continue their efforts to put themselves out of business. The rally concluded with Kenaitze Tribe Drummers and prayer around their Mother Earth Drum. To learn more about statewide programs go to www.chooserespect.alaska.gov and for local programs and events contact the LeeShore Center a 24 hour domestic violence and sexual assault center. Crisis line 283-7257, office 283-9479, or go to www.leeshoreak.org.