PALMER — “Every day my dad would strap on his Kevlar vest and his service weapon and leave for work. He wore a badge and his job was to protect people. But when he came home, no one could protect us from him,” Bryan said.
Alaska born and raised, Bryan (last name protected) had his fair share of happy childhood memories with his family, but he unfortunately spent his adolescence living in the shadow of fear. Growing up in an abusive household is a traumatizing experience for anyone and is all too common.
That is the reason behind the No More educational campaign sponsored by the Wasilla Sunrise Rotary group. Their goal is serious but simple: to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
Domestic violence is an grave issue for both men and women, especially in the Mat-Su Valley.
“We’re one of the biggest areas for domestic violence [in the state]. And, the only way you can cure that is through education,” former Sunrise Rotary president Mark Lee said.
Three years ago Jason Marvel, Burchell High School’s principal, challenged the Wasilla Sunrise Rotary Club to tackle this ongoing problem of domestic violence in the community. “Statistically,” Marvel shared, “One in two women in the Mat-Su valley will experience some form of domestic violence or sexual assault.”
This fact shocked Marvel. He has two daughters, and Marvel felt if he if didn’t act in some way, the data suggested one of his own daughters was at risk. It was too great a risk not to get involved.
“We know that education is what changes lives. It changes perspective and perception. So to educate and bring awareness and to have people begin conversations about it is a start,” Marvel said
Sunrise Rotarians, along with Alaska Family Services, were quick to accept the challenge and commit themselves to educating the youth in the valley. Thus, No More, an educational campaign, was created to end domestic violence and sexual assault in the Mat-Su. Bringing change to the Valley begins by raising awareness and addressing this problem.
The difference between this conference and other conferences on domestic violence was that the April 9 presentation was youth driven and youth managed. The message behind No More Mat-Su was more about the effects of domestic violence and sexual assault than the actual acts. The organizers wanted to show that the children exposed to domestic violence are at most risk for more domestic violence and sexual assault. Sunrise Rotary would like to change that cycle.
“My father was strong, but he used his strength to control, to crush, and to hurt those in his family who loved him the most,” Bryan said.
Domestic violence amongst families occurs throughout the country every day. It can include physical, sexual, and child abuse. Too often the signs go unnoticed.
“People at my church and my school had no idea what my life was like. I had learned to keep secrets,” Bryan said.
Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about two out of three go unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Of the survivors who choose not to report these sexual crimes to the police, majority state that they feared retaliation. Others reasoned that they were under the impression that the crime was solely a personal matter, or that police wouldn’t be able to help.
No More Mat-Su works in step with the words of John D. Rockefeller, “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” No More Mat-Su works to inform and give courage to those needing to leave abusive relationships.
No More speakers shared that domestic violence comes in many forms, but primarily mental and emotional. The effects of it on a person, on their self esteem, is something that is extremely difficult to deal with, and each person deals with that trauma differently.
With the right help and support system, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can manage the lifelong effects that a survivor endures. No More Mat-Su believes no one should have to live in fear, especially in your own home.
“My mom would always whisper to me ‘walk with honor, you are a king’ and those whispers were louder than all the shouts,” Bryan said.
No More Mat Su works to make those words true for many more in need.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, please call 1−800−799−7233. There is help available.
Courtney Johnson is a senior at Wasilla High and Kindall Rumbo is a sophomore at Wasilla High. They are both Journalism I students.