Last week, approximately 170 communities in Alaska held events for the statewide Choose Respect program. In Talkeetna, that involved nearly fifty people walking from the Flying Squirrel Bakery and Cafe to the Talkeetna Roadhouse with signs calling on state residents to help put a stop to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Talkeetna Resident Jenny Krepel explains why she took part on Saturday.
“I do it as often as I can. I’ve had family members and really close friends that are affected by domestic violence, so I choose to be out there walking to show my respect for everyone…and to hopefully effect some change in attitudes toward domestic violence in our community and across the state.”
Alaska sits at the very bottom of national rankings for domestic violence and sexual assault. According to a study released by UAA last year, more than fifty percent of women in the Mat-Su Borough have experienced one or both in their lifetime.
The Talkeetna Bachelor Society was represented in the walk as well, and gives the proceeds of its annual bachelor auction to help women and children in crisis. Bachelor Society President Todd Basilone explains how his organization’s mission fits with the Choose Respect initiative.
“The Bachelor Society has been involved for the last couple of years in this walk that the entire state is getting involved in. It’s perfect for us. We want people to respect each other, and we want to raise awareness for people to respect each other, whether it’s on a domestic level or a neighbor level. It fits our whole mission.”
After the walk, participants met at the Talkeetna Roadhouse to decorate prayer flags with messages of respect. Layla Micheli, organizer of this year’s event, says that some of the flags will end up in a very unique place.
“We have one flag that we’re painting on, and that’s going to go up to base camp on Mt. McKinley….The other banner will be hung up in the Clinic. We have one every year.”
For many, the Choose Respect walk was a chance to show support for victims of violence and abuse and attempt to bring awareness to an issue that is all too common in Alaska. For some, however, Saturday’s event was an intensely personal reminder of the cost domestic violence can have.
“My name is Marlena Friend-Farago. This is very hard for me to say, but I lost my beautiful daughter in February to domestic violence, and I’m very saddened by that. I just know–you take me times how many thousand in our world that are affected by domestic violence, and that’s a good reason to get out and walk, and it’s a good reason to speak out, so I made my banner that says, “Friends protect friends, forever.”
More information on the Choose Respect initiative can be found at chooserespect.alaska.gov.