Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:51 PM on Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homer residents rally for respect

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

"Choose Respect' ralliers take their message to the street Thursday, with a display of peace flags on Pioneer Ave.

Alaska's statistics for sexual assault and child sexual abuse are attention-getting.

For starters, according to information provided by the office of Gov. Sean Parnell:

• From 2003-2009, the average rate of reported forcible rape was 2.6 times higher in Alaska than nationally.

• Between 2001 and 2010, the Alaska State Troopers responded to and/or investigated 35,899 domestic violence offenses.

• A child was present in 43 percent of assaults involving domestic violence reported to the Alaska State Troopers in 2004.

• Only one in 10 children who are sexually abused will tell someone about it.

On Thursday, 64 communities around the state took a step toward increased awareness of sexual assault through Parnell's "Alaskans Choose Respect" initiative. In Homer, individuals created peace flags and then met at WKFL Park to hear comments from Thomas Katkus, commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and adjutant general with the Alaska National Guard, city of Homer Mayor James C. Hornaday and Peg Coleman, executive director of South Peninsula Haven House. Ralliers then lined up along Pioneer Avenue to display the peace flags and draw attention to Parnell's challenge to "all Alaskans to end this epidemic of evil and pass on a legacy of respect and honor to our children."

"The governor addressing the need to choose respect brings a statewide recognition that this is a big problem," Coleman told the Homer News. "It's a call, really, for everyone to get involved. It's not a women's issue. 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."

South Peninsula Haven House opened its doors 30 years ago. Its goal continues to be meeting the shelter needs of everyone seeking help and ensuring every child on the peninsula suffering from physical abuse or sexual assault has a child-friendly advocacy service available to them.

Need for the 10-bed shelter has grown over the years. Awareness and the number of adults disclosing sexual assault from their own childhoods also has increased.

"We had two women in their 70s talk about when they were sexually assaulted. There was no safe place to talk about it (at the time) and they lived with the confusion and pain for years," said Coleman. "The beautiful thing is there's a way to heal from it."

Also speaking at Thursday's rally was Susan Phillips Cushing of Homer, who was appointed to the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in 2009 and named chair of the council in March.

"It is up to those living here to try to stay aware of this ever-present problem: do not turn away, remain silent or ignore signs and symptoms of harm," said Cushing. "Although the shelter programs are constantly trying to keep the public apprised ... they are busy doing their jobs oftentimes in crisis management mode. It is up to local communities to keep informed, respond with support letters to Legislators, donations of funds and goods, attend events, testify to the council and once in a while a pat on the back to folks working to keep families safe."

Adding its support to Thursday's events was 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 fishing spokesperson Laukitis. "We're encouraging fishermen to come out and support this goal."

For more on the "Choose Respect" initiative, visit http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell/priorities/chose-respect.html. For more information on South Peninsula Haven House, visit http://havenhousealaska.org/.

Haven House's 24-hour help line is 235-8934.