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Legislature must act to protect children

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Community Perspective

FAIRBANKS — My sister Bree and I were very close and I keep a beautiful picture — a memory of her — always in my mind. Every night, when I lay down to go to sleep, I close my eyes and see rays of light dancing, peeking through her curls as they blow in the breeze. I see her smile ... I smile. Happening in slow motion, but just fast enough so I can take in every feeling the moment gives me. I remember the sound of her voice, the way she laughed and the feeling it gave me to see her so incredibly happy. I get chills. 

Yet at that same moment in time, the memory can feel so cloudy and unreal.

My biggest fear is the harder I try to remember every detail about my sister, the more I will forget what she was really like. That I’ll forget what we talked about, what we laughed about, that my daughter won’t remember who her auntie was and the other will never have known her. This is the most helpless I’ve ever felt, knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to change what has happened to her.

The last night I was ever to see my sister, Breanna Moore, was the beautiful summer evening of June 26, 2014. She left after dinner to spend some time with her boyfriend at his parent’s home but she never returned. That evening, her boyfriend, a person who was supposed to love and protect her, ended her life with a single gunshot.

Bree was the type of girl who made you want to be like her. She was beautiful, tall, confident and classy. She was also the funniest and most happy person I have ever known. She always gave her hospitality and kindness to others, whether they were human or animal. She took that kindness to work with her every day and lightened her coworker’s most tedious days, by making everyone laugh with her bright spunky spirit.

The person she was, being so inspiring, makes this tragedy so much harder for me to accept and understand. It is also is what drives me to help my parents make a positive change in Alaska.

That is why my family and I have been advocating merging “Bree’s Law” with the nationally known “Erin’s Law,” creating one solid bill named “The Alaska Safe Children’s Act.” Erin’s Law is a movement created by Erin Merryn, who was a victim of sexual abuse when she was a child. She has been successful in passing laws in 24 states that teach age appropriate curriculum to public school students to prevent sexual assault and abuse.

Bree’s Law would also provide age appropriate information to young adults in grades 7-12, about teen dating violence awareness, prevention, and healthy relationships.

Currently, teen dating violence awareness education laws have been passed in 21 states. The benefits of this education will help young adults, by making them aware of the signs of abuse, who to tell and where to go for help.

I have two daughters, but I will never raise them in this state if healthy change does not happen. I would love nothing more than to move back to Alaska, to be a support to my parents during this trying time. But I cannot subject my children to a state with such horrible statistics.

Alaska is now the most dangerous state in America. It has replaced Tennessee as the most dangerous state in the U.S. in 2015. Based on FBI’s four major violent crime categories: murder, aggravated assault, robbery and incidents of forcible rape. Anchorage and Fairbanks are #2 and #3 on a Forbes list of the nation's most dangerous cities for women. Alaska leads the nation in rapes per capita at 300 percent above the national average and has the nation's highest rate of women murdered by men at 250 percent above the national average. A University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center survey found almost 59 percent of women in Alaska had experienced physical violence, sexual violence or threats of violence from a partner at some point in their lives.

Who would not want to have their daughters and sons educated to have the tools to protect themselves against not only being the victim of, but also the perpetrator of sexual abuse and physical assault? Rhode Island implemented a curriculum and policy on teen dating violence in all districts that they teach every year, from seventh through 12th grades. Since the passage of this law, physical teen dating violence rates have decreased almost in half, from 14 percent in 2007 to 8.4 percent in 2013.

It makes me sick to know that my sister didn’t have the most important education she could have had to save her life. I think it's horrible that the young man that killed my sister might spend the rest of his life in prison for an action that was preventable. Maybe if he had learned about what a healthy relationship looks like, he wouldn't have killed my sister. Maybe if we were all more educated, we could help put a stop to this terrible cycle.

Please don’t argue it’s a parent’s job to educate their kids on teen dating violence, because currently, 81 percent of parents don’t know that teen-dating violence is an issue and only 5 percent of teens tell their parents that they have been abused in a dating relationship.

I shame all of you who don't think it is important to give our youth the tools help prevent rape, assault, and murder. This problem is out of control and no one deserves to feel helpless. No one deserves to feel the fear my sister felt when the man she loved pointed a gun in her face and pulled the trigger. No child of any age deserves to be abused over and over again by people who are supposed to love them or by people in their community.

Everyone deserves to have the tools and if no one tries to make a change, it could happen to your child, grandchild or family friend! A community's job is to look out for each other. To make where we live a safe place for everyone's children, to help our neighbors grow and find happiness in life. If nothing is done, change cannot and will not happen.

We can take the first step forward.

Currently we are having trouble getting “The Alaska Safe Children’s Act” passed in the original form that unanimously passed the House 34 to 6. This bill was a clean merging of two items, Erin's Law & Bree's Law, that was only three pages and had the means to provide education in schools to prevent sexual abuse, teen dating violence, and encourage healthy relationships. The Senate Education Committee Chairman, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, as well as committee members Sen. Charlie Huggins and Sen. Cathy Giessel, should be ashamed of themselves for creating a "substitute bill" adding un-related portions causing the bill to blow up to 12 pages — now addressing 23 items. Sen. Dunleavy added clauses that prevent Planned Parenthood from educating kids in sex-ed classes, as well as eliminating certain tests that have nothing to do with abuse or any heath matter.

Most importantly, he added an "opt-in” feature for parents and school districts that reverses the law’s intent by removing the mandatory requirements for school districts to implement this education. This defeats the whole purpose for the bill.

The overwhelming majority of Alaskans want the original three-page version of “The Alaska Safe Children’s Act,” which contains only Erin’s Law and Bree’s Law, to be passed now. Please let your voice be heard loud and clear by signing our "ipetition," available online at the link following this article. Every Alaskan who supports this legislation should be proud they are part of the needed change to educate our children and give them the tools to protect themselves from sexual assault, abuse and teen dating violence.

Let not another innocent young life be destroyed or lost to something that is so preventable.

Brooke Moore is the older sister of Breanna Moore, who was killed by her boyfriend on June 26, 2014. Brooke was born and raised in Alaska and lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters. She has been an integral part in helping her parents advocate for Bree’s Law. To learn more about Breanna Moore, please visit her Facebook Memorial Page at www.facebook.com/balloons4bree. To sign a petition in support of the Alaska Safe Children's Act, go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/alaskasafechildrensbill.

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