By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Some 13 Seward residents, the majority of them affiliated with SeaView Community Services or related organizations, marched from City Hall to the Alaska SeaLife Center to take a stand against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. There were similar marches and events taking place throughout the United States and across the globe. SeaView’s Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coordinator Dawn McDevitt, who joined SeaView just last month, organized the event.
Prior to the march she stood at the top of the steps near the entrance to City Hall, and gave this speech:
“One in three women on this planet (that’s 1 billion women) will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. To me, one person is too many. So we stand here today to show support and honor not only to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault but their children, family, friends, and for all women. We must also realize that there are male victims of violence as well that need our support today. It is time to speak up and say no more. No more abuse in our homes, in our families, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our communities and certainly no more abuse in this state.
Almost 75% of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. The Alaska rape rate is 2.5 times the national average. Child Sexual assault in Alaska is almost 6 times the national average. Alaska has the highest rate per capita of men murdering women
It is time we start building healthy relationships with one another and teaching our children how to have healthy relationships with others. It is time to stand up not turn away but offer help to those in need. Now more than ever it is time to show compassion, love and support. It is time for us all to do our part in putting an end to violence.”
The gathering marched down Fourth Street along the icy, slushy sidewalk, looking more like a group of friends than marchers. Then, they held a moment of silence for all victims of violence and those who have lost their lives. They wound up at SeaView for some refreshments.
In related news, the U.S. Senate, with bipartisan support, passed the Violence Against Women Act last week, which it had failed to pass last year. Next it goes before the House, where it may encounter significant resistance.
The bill reauthorizes the landmark legislation which was enacted nearly two decades ago, strengthens and improves existing programs that assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
“There are few pieces of legislation that have such a direct, tangible and immediate impact on countless Alaskans,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who co-sponsored the bill, in a press release. Murkowski was the only republican Senator to support its reauthorization last session.
“This Act empowers the victims who suffer from domestic abuse, dating and sexual violence, and it empowers those on the frontlines of law enforcement and caregivers in the largest American cities to the smallest Alaska rural village. I hope that my colleagues in the House of Representatives deliver on this national need,” she said.
It also had strong support from Senator Mark Begich, an original co-sponsor of VAWA and has fought on multiple fronts against the problem of domestic violence in Alaska and across the country. Begich proposed pilot programs to strengthen Alaska tribal court systems and provide aid to tribes to improve rural public safety, reduce domestic violence, child abuse, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse in the last Congress by introducing the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act. He plans to bring it back again this session.