‘Choose Respect’ rally draws Parnell to Old Harbor

Wrist bands bearing the "Choose Respect" motto are seen on a table Thursday afternoon, March 29, 2012 in the Sun'aq Tribal Hall. (James Brooks photo)

At Kodiak High School, Eli Fields will warm up his vocal chords for a rap on stage. In Old Harbor, they’re getting ready for a visit from Gov. Sean Parnell.

It’s all part of “Choose Respect,” a statewide campaign against domestic violence that climaxes Thursday with community marches in 143 Alaska communities.

“When I talked to the governor's office, they said everybody in Kodiak was involved except for one village. That's pretty big,” said Sandra Wilkins of the Kodiak Women’s Resource and Crisis Center.

The center is organizing Kodiak’s events with help from the Kodiak Area Native Association. In Kodiak city, Kodiak High School students will host an assembly in the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium at 1 p.m. then embark on a unified march.

“Community members are definitely encouraged to come out,” Wilkins said. “We don’t want to just be a high school march.”

The Choose Respect campaign is the brainchild of Gov. Parnell, who has made fighting domestic violence a priority since he became governor in 2010.

According to the 2012 Alaska Victimization Survey, 23 percent of all adult women in the Kodiak Island Borough have experienced sexual violence. Forty-four percent have experienced some kind of violence involving a partner.

Statewide, the 2010 victimization survey indicated 59 percent of adult women in Alaska have experienced some kind of violence involving a partner.

Each year taking office, Gov. Parnell has organized events to promote awareness of these statistics and what can be done to change them. Last year on March 31, Kodiak residents marched from Kodiak High School to the Sun’aq Tribal Center in order to raise awareness of domestic violence issues.

This year, Gov. Parnell will travel to Old Harbor, which has organized an afternoon of events beginning with a rally at the Old Harbor School gym and ending with a performance by the Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers and a barbecue at the Old Harbor Senior Center.

In Kodiak, the guests of honor will include the mayors of the city and borough, and Fish and Game commissioner Cora Campbell.

Wilkins said the Kodiak event is designed to get teens and youths involved.

“For Kodiak, the high school is a big part of the community,” she said. “We figure if we can get the high school to understand why this is important, the rest of town will follow them.”

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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