One senator away from change

A poster featuring Bree Moore and encouraging action against dating violence is seen on the Alaska State Capitol office door of Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, on April 5, 2018. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire File)

We’re all still reeling from the events that unfolded during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 7. Sen. John Coghill Jr., demonstrated his true depth of disrespect for the good people of Alaska — as well as his colleagues. Perhaps he has forgotten his position was born out of public service.

 

Coghill’s refusal to hear public testimony was under the false precept of allowing fellow senators to present their bills. The childish way he abruptly adjourned without hearing the remaining two bills proves there was no intention of engaging in productive conversation. This issue crosses party lines into one we should all take up to preserve the integrity of our democracy.

It is disparaging to know that Butch and Cindy Moore have endured continued public abuse through Coghill’s unfounded accusations. It takes a special kind of cruel to call Butch Moore a bully and insinuate the couple has blackmailed legislators into supporting a cause Alaskans appear interested in. I wish to rectify Coghill’s points with the public. His arguments grievously impact victims of intimate partner violence in communities throughout the state.

The renaming of the dating violence portion of the ASCA reflects more than Breanna Moore’s tragic story and the tireless efforts of her parents in making Alaska a safer place. Rather, humanizing this piece of legislation promotes the kind of empathy and connection needed to take dating violence more seriously. Many students receiving the mandated education grew up with Breanna — as she formed relationships with parents, teachers, and other community members alike. Her early and violent murder hit so close to home, it’s safe to assume everyone feels some sort of connection to her. Why deny us ownership in the resolution of the problem, as well as our own healing?

I was taken back by Coghill’s assertion that the Moores’ interest lies in “industry.” There is nothing to be financially gained, nor exploitation served, in renaming parts of this bill. I find it perplexing that Coghill avoids the claim that the adjoining portion of the ASCA, Erin’s Law, was touted as a franchise, even though the campaign surfaced on the national stage. This leads me to question why Coghill seems to push back only on dating violence — what are his interests exactly?

Psychology recognizes that individuals often attach meaning to adverse experiences through promoting positive change. Sure, Butch and Cindy Moore have an agenda, one that will ultimately benefit many generations of Coghills to come. Now that is an agenda I can get behind!

Of the statements Coghill made, none were more contemptuous than his reference to Breanna dating a “known bad actor.” This signifies the climate in which abuse thrives; the victim blame game. Breanna knew something that Coghill doesn’t — leaving is extremely dangerous. Furthermore, perpetrators groom victims into believing they are entering safe relationships before employing abusive tactics. By the time the true intention of the contract is realized, it is often too late. This is exactly the sort of dilemma Bree’s Law sets out to prevent through education.

The final issue I will take up with Coghill on this matter is his postulation that Breanna’s situation was a “different issue” than that addressed by Bree’s Law. She was in the highest risk age group for experiencing dating violence when her life was so abruptly taken. Not only were Breanna and her parents unaware of the early warning signs, but a general lack of knowledge about dating violence likely kept her silent in fear of persecution. Coghill’s statements only reinforce these fears in those suffering. Education before the fact is absolutely the way to thwart the numerous obstacles to getting out. This is the difference between prevention and intervention, which is exactly what Bree’s Law seeks to accomplish.

I’m calling on Sens. Coghill and Pete Kelly to do what is just by renaming the dating violence education portion of the ASCA as “Bree’s Law” after its rightful namesake. Continued failure to disregard Alaskans and those in office who do represent the public will be remembered when it is our turn to throw the gavel at the poles. Please help preserve Breanna Moore’s legacy of prevention through early education.


• Rus’sel Sampson is a Wasilla resident.


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