ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Statistics on instances of sexual assault in Alaska are among the most disturbing in the nation. That's why dozens of people came together in downtown Anchorage to take a stand Thursday for the annual Choose Respect March, aimed at heightening awareness of Alaska's blight of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The Choose Respect March started nine years ago, and was funded by the state up until about four years ago. That's when Zonta, an organization that advocates for women, took up the cause in the state's place.
Bagpipes led the way from the park strip and down F street. Dozens of people carried signs with a message to end sexual assault and domestic violence, like Tara Bourdukofsky, who marched in honor of a friend who recently passed away.
"Like most victims of crime, my friend had a long history of that in her life," Bourdukofsky said. "I thought a lot about her today. I'm hoping she has peace."
The group marched for five blocks to Flattop Pizza, where a short program took place with guest speakers and food. According to studies conducted by researchers at UAA, the statistics are staggering.
"More than half of women in Alaska have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, or both at some point in their lifetime," said Dr. Andre Rosay, the Associate Dean for College of Health at UAA.
Rosay says however, that the trend seems to be improving. In 2010, 12 in 100 women experienced sexual or domestic violence, and that number decreased to eight in 100 in 2015 — numbers that will hopefully continue falling as messages demanding respect and consent spread.
"Everybody knows somebody, even if you don't know it because the numbers are just so high here," said Shelli Cutting, chairperson of the Choose Respect March. "With a quarter of our state having been assaulted, you know somebody. You just may not know that you know somebody. So if you see something, you need to say something."