More than 400 people in the Mat-Su Borough took time out of their schedules on Thursday to Choose Respect. We were delighted to see a mix of adult and student faces in the Palmer crowd. We hope next year more businesses will close shop for lunch that day to encourage their employees to participate.
Gov. Sean Parnell and First Lady Sandy were in attendance at the Palmer Choose Respect event, as was Mayor DeLena Johnson and Alaska Family Services Executive Director Donn Bennice and hundreds of others.
We’ve devoted a lot of space to the Choose Respect effort this year. January and February, we featured a different Valley Men Choose Respect ad and story. We put all eight of these features in a special publication we released in time for Alaska Family Services’ annual dinner earlier this month.
But we were glad for Thursday’s Choose Respect events, which gave us a chance to put boots on the ground in support of a cause we believe very deeply contributes to the overall quality of life in the Valley.
We believe, as Mayor Johnson said, that Choose Respect is a call to action issued to each of us. And we believe it must begin at home, where domestic violence largely occurs.
Choose Respect is not a cure-all, but it is a tool we can use to heal. Thanks to Choose Respect, we all know more about how violence impacts children’s ability to learn. We know that when violence happens in a home it hurts everyone in the family, and that damage ripples through our whole community.
Gov. Parnell said 60 percent of Alaska women report being assaulted.
Such abuse has direct social costs for our community and state. For instance, 62 percent of shelter residents in 2012 were women with children. The 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey also cites domestic violence as a major cause of homelessness for women and children. Of the 3,125 women and children who stayed in Alaska’s domestic violence facilities in 2012, 1,372 were children younger than 18. Among all these numbers and statistics, one face stands out. Her voice trembled and her nose ran as Suzanne Thomas shared her personal horror story of domestic violence and escape. After two marriages to two abusive men and relationships with several others, Thomas says she’s done.
“I will not allow another abusive relationship in my life,” she said.
It takes more courage than we can imagine to scoop up your child and flee. It takes more faith than we can imagine to trust that the folks at the shelter will protect you when those who’ve pledged to love you have not.
Thank you to Thomas for being brave enough to share her story in front of an audience of strangers. Thank you for being brave enough to tell others still in harm’s way that there is help and hope. And most of all, thank you for showing your daughter by your example that you Choose Respect for yourself and for her every day.