As the Democratic candidate for governor, but more importantly as an Alaskan, a husband, and a father, I believe in the dignity and equality of women and the right of all families to be free from the threat of harm. I have never -- and will never -- condone domestic violence or sexual assault.
A commentary published recently in Alaska Dispatch said that "a national conference on violence against Native women was held. Those women cited the No. 1 barrier to ending violence against Native women was Native leaders who batter and/or leaders who collude with or support those who do." I couldn’t agree more. However, the writer then went on to say that because I had spoken at the 1999 funeral of John Hope Jr., a former Grand Camp president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood who was convicted for sexual assault on a minor, I was condoning his deplorable criminal acts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, I did speak at Hope’s funeral. I acknowledged him then for his many contributions to the Native community. In his passing these contributions could not be denied, even in light of his repugnant offense against a child. But they do nothing to erase the lifetime of pain and suffering, the anger and the hurt that a sex offender wraps around victims and their loved ones. I should know. I am one of many Alaskans whose families have been victimized by a relative who was a sexual predator. I know the devastation such despicable acts leave in their wake.
I believe every woman, man and child should be safe in their homes and in their communities. The decades of abuse are finally being openly talked about. I was at AFN in October and heard the Tanana teens share their poignant story of hurt and longing, but ultimately of hope and strength. It was a sharing that would have been unheard of even five years ago. We’ve come a long way -- and we have a long way to go.
We must channel our pain and our history into a river of action and change. I hope that you will join me on that journey. For surely we must do this, can only do this, together.
Byron Mallott is running for governor of Alaska.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.