About 75 Central Peninsula residents walked the slushy road from Leif Hansen Memorial Park to the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center Thursday for the third annual Choose Respect March.
Choose Respect, a campaign from Gov. Sean Parnell, aims to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It’s just a great way to show the community that there’s a group of people that want to make note of choosing respect,” Kenai resident Steve Kiefer said. “It’s a personal way to show support, and it’s nice to be a part of a community event that people pull together and get a point across and send a message.”
The Kenai march was organized by the LeeShore Center, which has been the case for the two years prior also.
“A lot of the different organizations that we work with were here representing their agencies so we’re really excited to have them,” said Barbara Waters, an education and training coordinator at the center.
About 120 communities around the state participated in marches on Thursday. In 2009, the first year of Parnell’s initiative, just 18 communities participated, according to a press release from Parnell’s office.
When the participants reached the visitors center, they heard from Parnell’s administration commissioner, Becky Hultberg, who grew up in Kenai.
“We’re here today to honor victims and survivors and to send a message of hope and healing to many Alaskans who have suffered from domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual assault,” Hultberg told the audience. “We want to send a strong message to victims and survivors across Alaska and here today — you are not alone and you are not to blame.”
On Sept. 15, 2011, there were 19 domestic violence programs in the state that participated in the 2011 National Census of Domestic Violence Services, a survey that took place over a 24-hour period. According to the survey, there were 565 victims served in one day and 363 domestic violence victims found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs, among other statistics, according to information from the governor’s office. Additional information provided by the governor’s office shows that from 2003 to 2010 the average rate of reported forcible rape was two-and-a-half times higher in Alaska than the rest of the nation.
Waters said the root of domestic violence goes beyond what’s on the surface.
“It is not drinking or drugging or illness,” she said. “Those things do not cause domestic violence — they may exacerbate them, but they do not cause it.
“The cause is power and control over another person, making them feel less than you are, being above them — which is a lack of respect.”