A celebration of progress and a call for greater equality

Statistics paint a somewhat safer environment for Alaskan women today than five years ago, but a group gathered in the State Office Building Tuesday came together to say it wasn’t enough.

Lauree Morton, the executive director for the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, told a crowd of more than 100 that in 2010, it was reported that 59 out of 100 women in the state were victims of intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both. In 2015, that figure decreased and now stands at 50 out of 100 women.

“It’s still too much, it’s still too many, but damn, we’re moving the needle in the right direction,” Morton said. “Now is the time to strengthen these efforts.”

Morton was one of several speakers during Juneau’s fourth annual One Billion Rising Campaign, an international movement to end violence against women and shed light on the fact that 1 billion women worldwide will experience violence in their lifetimes.

Ati Nasiah, a prevention director at the AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) shelter, said in Juneau last year 160 women with 100 children sought shelter from violence. That added up to over 800 hours of counseling for victims.

“This is not the world we want to live in,” Nasiah said. “Let’s show the world what it looks like when 1 billion people heal.”

Although certainly a women’s issue, several men and boys were in the crowd, some wearing buttons that said “I love women” and “I rise for revolution.”

Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Sasha Soboleff told the audience that the tradition among Native groups is to respect women, a fact highlighted by the carrying on of matriarchal clans in families.

He pointed to the men and women in the crowd, one by one singling them out as the “creators of (a) new healing” that will carry on when others fail.

“Do what needs to be done, stop what needs to be stopped, and not just for yourself,” Soboleff said.

Local and state officials were also in the crowd, moving alongside Eagle Raven Dancers who performed love songs, and holding their index fingers in the air during a rally call for justice for the 1 billion women around the world experiencing violence.

First Lady Donna Walker shared with the crowd her experience visiting shelters across the state, telling them about a woman who as a child lived in a shelter when her mom escaped violence. Now, as an adult that woman had to escape violence for her child’s sake, just one example of the cyclical trend that occurs when violence isn’t stopped.

“We demand an end to violence,” Walker said.

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