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Public Statements

Speech: Alaska's Heart Condition

Location: Unknown

Thank you, Bill Evans. Thanks to the Chamber Board for your efforts. It is good to see you again. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

The irony of speaking to you on this particular topic, on this particular day, is not lost on me. I'm here today to talk about something at the HEART of our community and our state. This is a heart condition that can make or break any state. It's a public safety matter, a public health matter, a workplace safety matter.

As business leaders, you stay current on the Big Resource Topics of the day. They dominate the headlines, for good reason. They're engines of our economy. Oil and gas. Precious metals. Rare earth. Timber. Fishing. Tourism.

You also know that as complex as these resource topics are, they are so much easier to talk about than child sexual abuse, child exploitation, rape, and domestic violence.

Domestic violence and sexual assault may not be natural resource issues, but they are still resource issues. Our employees are most valuable resources. And while we often think of these assaults as personal, not personnel matters, they have real costs, even if they don't show up on Quickbooks. They have a cost to you, to your business' bottom line, to the community and to the victim.

How to reduce these crimes? The way forward hasn't always been obvious. But now we're clearing a new trail. The way forward is through partnerships. The way forward is by breaking the silence. No more shame. And because these issues are "Alaska Tough," the way forward takes this trail right in front of your doorstep.

Margaret Mead once said, "Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world…." Well, I've seen what the Chamber can do as a committed group of Alaskans; Alaskans who aren't afraid to tackle anything! If we are going to erase Alaska's dubious distinction of having the highest rates of child sexual assault and interpersonal violence in the country, we are going to need your strength in numbers. I'm here, on behalf of all Alaskans, to ask for your leadership on this issue.

The fact is, this problem is already on our doorstep. It has seeped inside our offices, maybe without your knowledge. Domestic violence and sexual assault are invisible marauders in the workplace. They hurt employees, their families, collective productivity, and the prosperity of our communities.

So let's just take a poll here in the room. A show of hands. Think back through your many years of work: How many here have ever known someone in the workplace who has been a victim -- or perpetrator -- of domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse? Or raise your hand if you've known someone whose family has been impacted by this? (RAISE HAND)

That's why this will come as no surprise to you: The Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage just completed a comprehensive victimization survey. Here are the results in a nutshell: Nearly 60 percent of Alaska women have either been sexually assaulted, physically assaulted or significantly threatened in their lifetime. That's not just 60 percent of women in Anchorage, Adak and Angoon. It is 60 percent of Alaska's daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunties. These women are day care providers, dental technicians and directors. They are managers and teachers. They are artists and business owners. They are women in our houses of worship. They are our neighbors.

I hope this makes you uncomfortable, because it certainly has that effect on me. What's more: 60 percent is thought to be a conservative number! Often victims feel too much shame to even admit they were abused. We were not created to be abusers nor to be abused. And yet, when we have this level of abuse -- one out of every two-or-three women -- we must act.

It's not just women, of course. STAR says 10 percent of the rape victims they see are boys or men. 30 percent of the children seen at Alaska's child advocacy centers are boys. WE MUST STOP THE ABUSE, EXPLOITATION AND MALTREATMENT OF OUR CHILDREN.

Most of these crimes are not committed by strangers, but by friends, relatives, parents and caregivers. Adults whom victims are supposed to love and trust. Adults who are supposed to be protectors and care givers.

I have spoken on occasion about my own family's experience with domestic violence. Let me show you one of the PSAs we have made. (PLAY GOVERNOR'S PSA)

I'm grateful to my father for choosing a different way. For Choosing Respect and teaching Respect to us kids. For breaking the cycle in one generation. If not for his courage to take a different path, I might not be up here today telling you -- and believing in my heart -- that we can, as a state, can end this epidemic of violence in one generation.

And others think we can do this too. Southcentral Foundation, Providence Medical Center's Alaska CARES, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, STAR, AWAIC, Victims for Justice. If you are with one of these organizations or one that I forgot to mention -- please stand up and let us recognize and thank you.

Together, we have our collective shoulder to the wheel to end domestic violence and sexual assault. We need your shoulder to the wheel too.

Let's talk about how domestic violence and child exploitation impacts the business community and our economy. The crimes are often hidden and thus a lot of the costs are hidden, impossible to quantify. But here are some national estimates….

Cost of adult sexual violence: 127 billion dollars . Year after year after year.

Domestic partner violence, the cost to victims and employers: Nearly 19 billion dollars. Year after year after year.

Think unexplained absences or inability to concentrate. Think lost productivity. Sick leave. Medical care, mental health services, chronic health problems.

These estimates do not even include the cost of investigation, prosecution, incarceration, and supervision of offenders once they are released.

Child abuse: The indirect costs of all child abuse in America? More than 90 billion dollars . Year after year.

Sexual and physical abuse, are linked to substance abuse, depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and early death in adulthood.

A billion here. A billion there. Who really pays for this. Who? Your business, every taxpayer…but the ultimate cost is borne by the victim. Lost dignity, self-worth, quality of life, and pain -- both physical and emotional. Pain that cannot be measured. For our children, loss of childhood.

Friends, this is an issue that requires our hearts, minds, resources, and determination….for many years to come. I'm focusing on what we all can do together in 10 years.

First, we're beefing up law enforcement and tougher prosecution. In villages, we're getting more Village Public Safety Officers trained and in place, so that every village that wants a VPSO will have one. We're increasing penalties for online enticement of minors and for manufacturing or distributing child pornography. We're improving the capabilities of the Technical Crimes Investigative Unit of the Alaska State Troopers, to chase down manufacturers and distributors of child porn. We're revising stalking laws to include electronic stalking.

Second, we will protect survivors and help them heal. Emergency shelter, legal advocacy, pro bono representation, and trauma-informed care are some of our key focus areas. Through the Kodiak Area Native Association we are supporting the development of our newest child advocacy center. We're also supporting Southcentral Foundation's Family Wellness Warriors Initiative.

Third, we will focus on prevention and education. We're promoting education for parents and children on how to protect themselves from internet predators and other safety risks. The Department of Education and Early Development has a new health and safety specialist, who will be coordinating prevention activities in school districts across the state. I hired Katie TePas to be the coordinator of this initiative. Katie --Stand and wave!

And with public funds from the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault is engaging youth, men, and boys to "stand up and speak up." And to send a message that real Alaska men Choose Respect. (CARLOS BOOZER VIDEO)

And this is where we need your help -- especially with prevention and education. Together, We CAN reduce the suffering. We can change the social norms here in Alaska. We can protect victims and help them heal. We can put batterers, rapists and child exploiters in front of juries and judges. We can and we will hold offenders accountable.

I'm calling on you to help Alaska change its social norms: This is going to take leadership and conviction. I'm asking you to be that leader.

What does it mean to change social norms? It's about changing what we think is OK. Once upon a time, people didn't think littering was a problem. But now, we know better. We put trash in a receptacle. Once, Americans didn't think smoking on a commercial flight was abnormal. Now, we know better. As a society, we once believed when a guy smacked around his bride, it was a private family matter. We were told to not get involved. Now we know better. That is what Choose Respect is all about. Stopping the violence before it even happens.

In the workplace, we need to weave Respect into our company culture with our External Customers and Internal Customers, between divisions and departments. Respect drives a good company culture!

Government can do some of the heavy lifting on this, protecting victims, bringing justice to bear. But as part of our social contract, we share the responsibility to help those around us. As employers and managers, we can respond in safe, supportive, and effective ways.

Here's what you can do today:

* You can post links on your web sites to the Choose Respect page: chooserespect.Alaska. gov, where we have resources and information that can guide people to help and support. Or better still, link directly to service providers, information right here in Anchorage, like AWAIC and STAR and Alaska Cares.
* You can be sure your employees are not disciplined or terminated just because they have been victims of violence -- or because of the concern that their attacker will bring violence to the workplace.
* You can include a domestic violence and victim resource pamphlet in your new employee packet, so that every new person coming to work in your business has that. You can invite your service provider to do a presentation in the workplace. AWAIC, Victims for Justice, STAR and Alaska Cares would do that for you.
* And you can join me at the point of the spear. We are having the second Choose Respect march here in Anchorage and across Alaska on March 31. Last year, 18 communities rallied; this year I set a goal of 40 communities participating, and Alaskans once again stepped up with conviction and courage. Today our tally is…..40.

Think about what it means to be a survivor of domestic violence or rape or child abuse. Imagine what it will mean to see hundreds of people marching together to proclaim "Enough, already! We support you. You are not alone. You are not to blame."

Your employees, your business can march with us -- bearing a banner with your business logo so that Alaskans will know what you stand for.
* Bear witness with me. Join me and an army of Alaskans -- to end this violence. Thank you for doing your part. Together we can change hearts and minds. Let's roll!

And now I'd like you to literally stand with me and welcome ___, who is here to courageously share her journey, and bring us out of the darkness into the light. No more fear…no more shame…you are not alone.

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