As public members of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, we felt it was important to voice our support for the work that has been done to combat the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska.
While some have been quick to criticize Gov. Sean Parnell for not taking quicker or more decisive action relative to issues raised recently in our National Guard, we can attest throughout his long public service as a state representative, state senator and governor, Gov. Parnell has never wavered in his commitment to create safety for victims, hold offenders accountable and work toward solutions to prevent domestic and sexual violence throughout Alaska.
Gov. Parnell has been a strong voice throughout his tenure as governor for bringing awareness and attention to the scourge of violence in our state. His Choose Respect initiative goes beyond the marches that may garner media attention. He has provided more funding for prevention efforts than at any time in Alaska's history. He has raised support for shelters and intervention programs. He has supported creative and innovative approaches to changing norms around violence such as the "Green Dot Alaska" campaign, "Girls on the Run," and "Coaching Boys Into Men."
His administration and the council we represent have worked hand in hand to support statewide youth initiatives and to bring Alaska's men into the conversation about how to create change. And for the first time ever, the council and the University of Alaska have worked together to complete statewide and regional surveys to get real, statistically valid numbers on the extent of the problems we face so that we can better design and evaluate solutions.
Perhaps as important, Gov. Parnell has been willing to face up to and address problems when and where they arise -- moving the issue of domestic and sexual violence from a secret shame to the forefront of public discourse.
Alaska and our nation have a long way to go when it comes to creating a society where our homes, streets, institutions and communities are safe and free from violence for all people. But it is also important to realize that we have made progress under Gov. Parnell's leadership.
As members of the council we are in a position to witness the impact of the shelter programs, victim support services, prevention efforts and legal advocacy provided throughout Alaska all year long. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we wanted to express our gratitude to all those working to end domestic violence and sexual assault and to Gov. Parnell for his leadership.
Richard Irwin is the chairman and Donna Erickson and Rachel Gernat are public members of the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.