The ninth annual Choose Respect march, denouncing Alaska's scourge of domestic violence, took place Thursday in downtown Anchorage.

More than 50 people marched from the Park Strip accompanied by the sounds of drums and bagpipes, many carrying signs.

The march, which dates back to an initiative by former Gov. Sean Parnell, has been sponsored for the last four years by Zonta Club of Anchorage. It is meant to bring awareness to Alaska's high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Shelli Cutting, the Zonta member who organized this year's event, called domestic violence, especially against women and children, a problem that effects everyone.

"Every community member needs to be on the lookout because it's happening right under your nose, even if you don't know it," Cutting said.

Choose Respect March is sponsored by the Zonta Club of Anchorage

According to the University of Alaska Anchorage's 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey, 59 out of every 100 women surveyed reported they had experienced intimate partner violence, sexual assault or both in their lifetime.

But Andre Rosay, a UAA professor who helped conduct the survey and who spoke at the event, said the figures actually showed "dramatic" improvement since the study was first conducted. Rosay said between 2010 and 2015, intimate partner violence reported by participants dropped by 32 percent and sexual violence by 33 percent.

Despite that, he said, the current levels are still too high.

"Regardless of where we are, we still have more than half of the women in Alaska that have experienced these forms of violence," Rosay said. "That's totally unacceptable. We've got to be able to do more, and unfortunately, I don't know how we do more without more resources."

Rosay said funding for victims' advocacy groups can play an important part in helping victims heal and encouraging them to report what has happened to them.

But Cutting said ordinary citizens can play a role as well by not being afraid to get involved.

"If you see something going on or you see somebody being hurt or somebody comes to work with bruises, ask the question," she said. "Don't just try to stay out of their business, you know? Ask the question."

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