Winter has been severe. It has been long! I've heard you say how tired of winter you are. Tired of the snow. The weight of it. The frustration. The isolation. The damage.
We say, "Let's Spring Come!"
Across Alaska You can see the signs. Winter surrenders to spring. The warm glow of the sun over the Chena [River] this morning said spring is on the way. And spring gives birth to new life.
We're here because the winter of this epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault has been too long. We say "Let Spring come!"
Let spring come to chase away the storm clouds of rage. Let spring come to break the chains of fear. Let spring come to set Alaskans free of shame and guilt.
Alaskans, by standing up, you are bringing the new life of spring to victims and survivors gripped by winter.
Across more than 100 communities -- 123 at last count -- we proclaim every Alaskan's right to be free of fear.
It is time for spring in Alaska homes and in Alaska hearts. Time for renewal and birth. And there are many good people here who bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted, who offer life and hope to the hurting.
I want to thank Brenda Stanfill and her staff at Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living, because every day, 24 hours a day, they shelter, they comfort, they guide, and they bring hope to people who have nowhere else to turn. Thank you.
To our medical and law enforcement professionals, who treat victims, who handle forensic evidence. To our prosecutors and victims' rights advocates.
And to our child guardians. To all who ensure justice, I thank you.
To the City of Fairbanks and Festival Fairbanks, thank you for clearing the snow for us to gather today. And to all of you gathered today, thank you.
These Choose Respect rallies build our capacity for prevention.
I heard from a small community last week where Choose Respect event posters had begun appearing around town. A woman there saw one of the posters and realized help was available. She called the number, made a plan, and escaped here abusive situation -- all because she saw your heart for her in one Choose Respect poster.
Every time we hold these Choose Respect events we hear from victims and survivors who were emboldened to make a plan and get out of harm's way.
Victims and survivors will watch the news tonight and know that people care for them, that they are valued, and valuable. No more shame. No more guilt. That life can be different and better than what they know today.
Thank you for creating a state that one day will no longer be known for its epidemic of abuse, but rather for its people of respect.
The Choose Respect initiative really has three key components to it: Prevention, Greater Enforcement, and Support Services. As a state, we are active and deploying resources in every area. But the State is just one part of the solution. The powerful part begins with you being involved.
Some get involved through organizations--at child advocacy centers such as Stevie's Place, OCS, teachers, school staff, the faith community -- all have a role. And we all need to be involved individually.
For instance, if a child is abused, we must let that child know the abuse is not their fault. We must listen and not dismiss what we hear. We must report abuse, and make sure help is provided.
If you're concerned a friend is being abused, think for a moment about the power of the words that have impacted his or her life. Words used by abusers to tear down the very fiber of a person's spirit. Demeaning words.
Now think of the words we can use to help victims, young and old. Words like:
Are you OK? I'm concerned.
I believe you.
It's not your fault.
You deserve to be safe!
Going to a shelter to escape abuse is nothing to be ashamed of.
Asking for help can change everything.
And to abusers, my message has been consistent: This is not acceptable. You are destroying lives. It's not your right. It's not your privilege. Stop. Help is available for you --- or jail. You pick! It's your choice!
In the end, it's about every Alaskan choosing respect. It's about living the truth that every Alaskan has value. By being the spring warmth for those who need it; by setting an example for the children, so theirs may be the last generation under this plague.
As Alaskans, we say, Let Spring Come!