“Our culture teaches respect. Choose peace, not violence. It shouldn’t hurt to go home.”
These words resonated around Koblerville village last Saturday as over 200 men and women participated in the Men’s Walk Against Domestic Violence.
The walk was part of the many events held Saturday as part of the 2nd annual Day of Unity-Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Awareness Month at the Koblerville Youth Learning Center.
“It’s not only a time to mourn those who lost their lives to domestic violence but also a time to recognize and celebrate the progress that our efforts have made to prevent domestic and sexual violence,” said Angel Nimwes, chairwoman of the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “Domestic violence is not just one person’s problem. It impacts and affects everybody. So I am glad that many people are here, united, joining the fight.”
The six-hour event drew many members of the community as well as several public officials. Participants were entertained by cultural and art performances.
“In this day of unity we want every culture to be celebrated,” Nimwes said.
One participant described the Day of Unity as “something everyone in the CNMI needs to show support for.”
“Even though I am not a victim of domestic violence, I do know many people on the island who are. And I put it unto myself to come out here today to join the fight,” he added.
According to Nimwes, over 40 percent of crimes reported every week are related to domestic or sexual violence.
“That makes an average of 30 to 40 crimes a week,” she said.
A unique tradition that the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence adopted last year had all male participants dressing in skirts or lava-lavas to support female victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Hundreds of men participated in the walk, among them Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).
“This problem of domestic and sexual violence might not go away, but at least we are bringing it out into the open so we can have a conversation and talk about our problems,” Sablan said.
He said he is starting an effort to bring in more money to the CNMI for programs such as the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo also participated in the walk.
“I wish I could say that I am happy to report that domestic violence has ended in the Northern Marianas Islands but I can’t. It is a continuing problem that is probably going to continue as long as human nature lasts,” Govendo said. “There is a lot of people involved to protect those women [victims of domestic and sexual violence], and that is why we are marching today.”
Govendo shared that he and Sablan have both participated in similar walks on the islands for the past several years.
After the walk a candlelight vigil was held to remember the victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Yesterday, Sunday, a Day of Prayer was held at over five churches on island to close the coalition’s events for the weekend.