Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.
Domestic violence is the community’s problem.
“If it’s happening in your town, it is your business,” Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg said.
Hultberg, representing Gov. Sean Parnell, addressed about 75 people in the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center as part of the LeeShore Center’s 4th Annual Alaska Choose Respect Awareness Event and to kick off the up-coming Sexual Assault Awareness Month. About 45 people had walked from Leif Hansen Park along Frontage Road to the visitor’s center to raise awareness about domestic violence and to show respect for its survivors.
Jane Ruggiedo, marching with a sign that read “families choose respect,” said she and about 10 other members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church came to the event to support “the dignity of every human life.”
Debbie Martin, a provider eligibility specialist for the Child Care Assistance Program through the LeeShore Center, said there is too much domestic violence in the state, and it is not necessary.
In Kenai, domestic violence arrests jumped from 56 in 2011 to 81 in 2012, Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said.
There is a connection between drug abuse and thefts, but no clear or singularly-defined cause for domestic violence exists, he said.
“It’s tough with domestic violence because we’re not in the homes until after the assault is committed,” he said. “This might just be an anomaly — this spike this year — and hopefully it’ll go down.”
Whatever the causes for domestic violence, Hultberg, a former Kenai resident herself, said the community can do better.
“We don’t see all the victims in the paper. We don’t see the high toll that it takes on our community, our society,” she said. “These are our kids.”
“We can make a change,” she added.
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said that change starts at home with youth.
She said parents need to be good role models. She gave the example of a TV commercial in which a child throws his empty container at his mother.
“That opens up a line of communication,” she said.
In those instances, parents need to ask their children if they think that behavior is alright.
“Be watchful,” she said.
During the three years Hultberg has been to the event, this year was the most people she has seen attended, and that makes her hopeful for the future of domestic violence, she said.
But to reduce domestic violence, she said the community needs to stand up and take action.
“Don’t look away,” she said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.