“Choose Respect” is an annual campaign that kicks off marches across the state to improve awareness of the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. This year, March 26, Governor Walker stood on the steps of our Capital in Juneau, and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott was in Barrow, as they each kicked off a local march. In Governor Walker’s speech, he talked about the need for action to make a difference in these terrible statistics and he named several actions his administration has already initiated. Thank you Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott.
But here, today, I choose to respect a courageous young woman by sharing her inspirational story and her message of hope. In her unvarnished text, and with her permission, I give you Ronnie’s Story.
“I’m a survivor of 20 years’ worth of domestic violence. I’m also an Alaska Native woman with an education. I had a promising career, and a seemingly great life. Those closest to me did not know the extent of physical assault and emotional abuse I endured from my husband, a respected man in the Mat Su Valley community. On many occasions appeared in public with all the signs of physical abuse, yet no one ever thought they were from him. We always an excuse or cover-up to hide my wounds, and to protect my husband because he worked in the education system for over 20 years. He accomplished this even after an arrest for domestic violence.
Last March, with the support of my family, a close friend, and the Anchorage Police Department I was able to escape the literal captivity of my violent living situation. On this last and final occurrence of DV, it took several responding APD officers many hours to remove him from my home. In court, he was given the option of a plea deal, to a lesser crime from the charges he faced for violating the terms of the protective order that was issued after the last assault. This meant his conviction would be dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for just 90 days.
I was never consulted by the prosecutor about the plea deal offered to my offender. As a victim I’m deeply offended by that. What does this convey to him as an offender with habitual behaviors and to me as a victim of DV throughout my 20 years of marriage? Most importantly, what do these results convey to other victims and committers of domestic violence? Since the protective order was put into place I have moved multiple times and have lived in constant fear for my life. The court system hoped this case would end with his change of plea. I feel as though my safety was not considered in my offender’s plea agreement. It is now evident that he continues to stalk via social media.
Ironically, he has discovered how to harass me through the legal system by filing frivolous motions relating to the long term protective order. I live behind locked doors. I never leave home alone, or without protection. This is not how I envisioned my life. Throughout my marriage I was terrorized, coerced through physical violence, and intimidated into signing over all my assets. I have lost my life savings, my home, and all my personal belongings. I sought protection from him through the system, and relied on the judicial process to do a better job at preserving my wellbeing.
As a survivor, I believe that every domestic violence case should be taken seriously by the systems we’ve set in place to protect victims such as myself. While attending one of my abusers last change of plea hearings, I witnessed firsthand how DV cases were managed by the Alaska court system. I was literally held in fear, of what my case’s outcome would be after realizing offenders were pleading to lesser charges with little consequence-it was a rather cookie cutter approach to many serious and alarming DV assault cases that day. Most of the cases heard by the court were pled out or dismissed without actually hearing from the victims. Offenders seemed to walk away rather pleased with their case’s outcome, or that they weren’t being held fully accountable for their offenses, I was the only victim to give a statement that day, and it was terrifying. I was scared, shamed, and nearly chose not to out of fear for my wellbeing once realizing what the outcome was amounting to.
What I’m looking to accomplish is to somehow form a voice for those DV victims who’ve been silenced due to apathy and hopelessness, such as I had been. I’m speaking for Alaska Native women who are unable to leave, who do not know how to execute change or escape violence. Those who cannot speak for themselves fearing retribution, as well as for those who are currently challenged by understanding the legal system. For those others who suffer hopelessness that comes with being an abused partner, spouse, family member.
This information was sent to Governor Walker’s administration urging preservation of public safety resources, with no response many weeks ago. I had hoped for acknowledgement on behalf of the many DV victims that are unable to speak for themselves as well as for myself.” Sincerely, Ronalda
Best of luck to you Ronalda, I sincerely hope all your dreams come true.