Gov. Sean Parnell is right: Alaska's rate of rape and domestic violence is an epidemic that demands stronger action across multiple fronts. He's offering legislators and all Alaskans a comprehensive way of attacking this scourge. Legislators and the rest of us should all take him up on his challenge to join the fight. The governor recognizes that it will take more than just the usual promise to "get tough" on offenders by hitting them with stiffer sentences. If you are throwing a perpetrator in jail, it's too late for the victim. Gov. Parnell wants to do more to prevent this kind of violence and protect those who are at risk.
For starters, he wants to change the social attitudes that feed this epidemic. As a society, we need to say, no, it's not OK to lose control and abuse a spouse or child. No, domestic violence is not merely a private matter for families to deal with.
Just as MADD made drunk driving socially unacceptable, our society needs to make clear we won't tolerate abuse of women and children. The "Choose Respect" ad campaign is a promising way to start changing these backward attitudes.
Gov. Parnell also wants to make sure those who are at risk can get shelter and legal protection when they need it. One innovative idea in his plan is to recruit lawyers who will offer free advice on how to get and enforce restraining orders, deal with the criminal justice system and find other help in the community. More village public safety officers in the Bush will help, too. As Gov. Parnell realizes, villages without any on-site law enforcement are places where rape and domestic violence can flourish. With more VPSOs, victims are more likely to report crimes and offenders are more likely to be convicted.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.