The Alaska Federation of Natives has strong traditions, but perhaps one of the most enduring is its commitment to traditional family values.
Across Alaska, we are witnessing a resurgence of these values. Alaskans are standing up for respect to end the exploitation of the vulnerable.
I have every reason to believe that, working together, Alaska can lead the nation in a return to the traditions that make our families strong.
Alaska's men are standing up to be role models, as men of valor and honor, in defense of families, and in protection of the vulnerable. As mentors, as coaches, and as protectors, men are key to turning around the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault.
I am heartened when I see the boys and men from around Alaska taking part in initiatives and events, to demonstrate strength and tradition. We ought to praise and thank those who are helping as leaders in change.
The Choose Respect initiative that we started in 2010 has resulted in more Alaskans having a difficult, sometimes personally painful, but absolutely necessary conversation about what is normal:
Is it normal to hit one's spouse or to be hit? Is it normal to force a date to have sex against her will? Is it acceptable to abuse, threaten, or torture? Should we tolerate our children being exposed to such violence and despair? Is it acceptable to stand by and do nothing?
These conversations are difficult because for too long, the shame and secrecy of the violence going on around us has kept many Alaskans from being able to seek help.
With surveys showing that 59 percent of Alaska's women have experienced either intimate partner violence or sexual assault in their lives, many people reading these words today know what I'm talking about, because they have experienced these devastating crimes personally.
We can heal this epidemic by living the traditional values of First Alaskans and encouraging others to do the same. Values like respecting one another, helping, sharing, and honor.
We can heal this epidemic by listening to the wisdom of our elders and helping those in need.
My administration, in partnership with the Alaska Legislature, has strengthened laws to get more protection for victims and to hold offenders accountable.
We've increased funding for shelters, and added cyber-crime investigators to go after those dealing in child pornography.
We've doubled the number of village public safety officers to more than 100. We completed a state-of-the-art crime lab to ensure investigations are being done quickly and accurately.
The list goes on, and I will continue to fight for justice on behalf of those who have been harmed, beaten, and raped.
But this is a fight for all of us -- for every Alaskan. Now is the time to stand up and end this epidemic. We can overcome this scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault.
We must bring back the traditional value of respect. At every opportunity, we must model respectful behavior to our youth. Respect is a legacy gift, one that keeps giving across generations.
I invite you to join Sandy and me in this quest for safe homes and strong families, through that traditional family value of respect.
Sean Parnell is Alaska's 10th and current governor. Previously, he served as lieutenant governor and in the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives.
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