Residents join march against abuse
About 30 people marched down Main Street on Thursday, urging Alaskans to “Choose Respect.”
“Our march represented taking a stand against domestic violence and sexual abuse and being a voice, showing the community that there are other options and help available,” said coordinator Jackie Mazeikas of SEARHC.
The march from the bank to the Haines Borough Public Library was part of Gov. Sean Parnell’s statewide effort. “Choose Respect” debuted with 18 communities in 2010, and Haines joined the list this year.
“All in all, I feel it was very successful and we will continue to have them each year,” Mazeikas said. “Hopefully, our number of participants will increase as the word gets out.”
According to statistics from the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for fiscal year 2010, Alaska’s rate of forcible rape is 2.3 times the national average, the highest of any state.
Thursday’s speakers in Haines included Mayor Jan Hill, police chief Gary Lowe, state employee Mike Barnhill, and Andrea Browning of the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) shelter in Juneau.
“I think it was the beginning of healing steps to take the shame off of it,” Mazeikas said. “There are people who care and options and help available, and I think it was a wonderful step for our community.”
She has worked closely with representatives from AWARE.
“I was contacted and asked if I would be interested in heading up the parade,” Mazeikas said. “I said yes and jumped in. I had never done anything like this before. It has taken a lot of work, but the end result has been wonderful.”
Police chief Lowe said many domestic violence and sexual assault incidents are alcohol-related, and more are being reported nationwide.
“I think, way in the past, 20 years ago, it never got reported, and now America has kind of brought this to the forefront and now Alaska is bringing this more, again, to the forefront, and we’re getting more calls on less serious violations, so that’s a good thing,” he said.
Lowe said Haines has a safe house, and AWARE can assist victims with the legal process.
AWARE has a 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-478-1090.
“My message is that we have to work together as a community for everything that we do here,” Lowe said. “Of course, domestic violence is a very serious issue and something that we need to work on, but we have to work on it as a community.”