R-E-S-P-E-C-T. As Aretha Franklin sang her soul hit in 1967, those letters were a call to action. Respect African Americans. Respect women. Respect yourself.
Last Thursday, that simple word continued its power when fishermen, cops, political officials, soldiers, social workers and citizens rallied against sexual assault, child sexual abuse and domestic violence. Sixty-four Alaska communities, including Homer, held events for Gov. Sean Parnell's "Choose Respect" initiative. That's an initiative all Alaskans can and should back.
A glance at each week's cops and courts log shows how these issues affect the lower Kenai Peninsula. Rarely does a week pass when someone isn't arrested for hitting a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse. These weekly arrests are part of 35,899 domestic violence complaints Alaska State Troopers responded to between 2001 and 2010.
The hard work of our police and prosecutors alone won't end the problem.
"It's a call, really, for everyone to get involved. It's not a women's issue," said South Peninsula Haven House Director Peg Coleman. "It's not for the police to solve. It's about the concept that we choose respect in our daily action with each other and with ourselves. That's what is going to make a difference. We can do this one day at a time, one voice at a time."
Alaska has come a long way since the dark days when husbands beat their wives and people looked away, ignoring the screams coming through thin apartment walls. Women's shelters have become family shelters, protecting everyone and offering sanctuary to all -- yes, even men, but especially to children. Just as we no longer tolerate people who drive drunk and have the courage to take away the keys from our friends, we no longer should tolerate family violence. The message is simple: you don't hit your boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and children. Period.
Choosing respect also means you don't accept being hit, being abused. Haven House has been teaching this lesson to teenagers through its outreach programs. In dating and going out, say yes to the young men and women who value you as a person. Choose positive, healthy relationships.
Homer sometimes has a reputation as a hard-drinking, rough and tumble fishing town. Thus it was good to see groups and businesses with the fishing community at last week's rally. Adding its support were the North Pacific Fisheries Association, United Fishermen of Alaska, Kachemak Gear Shed, Petro Marine Services, JK Fabrication Inc., Lynden Transport, Dana F. Besecker Co., Home Run Oil, Fishing Vessels Owners Association, Northern Enterprises Boat Yard, Icicle Seafoods and NOMAR.
"It's just kind of a perfect opportunity for fishermen to step forward and be leaders in the community and say it's a hard way to make a living, but we choose respect," said Buck Laukitis, a spokesperson for fishing groups. "We're encouraging fishermen to come out and support this goal."
We hope everyone will get behind the governor's initiative. We agree with Parnell's call for "all Alaskans to end this epidemic of evil and pass on a legacy of respect and honor to our children."
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It's the right choice.
-- Homer News, April 7
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