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Rape And Suicide: Alaska Leads The Pack

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

We already knew Alaska was the leader in suicides. But it seems it can claim another dubious distinction: it's the rape capital of America, and the numbers are higher than ever.

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The numbers are shocking. While almost half of Alaskan women polled report abuse by their partners, 37% say they've been raped." 37%! And that's of women who report or admit to the assaults! That's more than 2.5 times the national average.

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According to the Anchorage Daily News,

The numbers are based on a survey of 871 adult Alaska women in May and June of 2010, called the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey. Both Rosay and Lauree Morton, interim director of the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said even those staggering numbers are almost certainly conservative. Sen. Hollis French asked Morton if the numbers surprised her. "Sen. French, no," Morton replied. She said people working in the field have long known that Alaska numbers were high. The survey - which had women reporting sexual assault at about 10 times the rate sexual assault is reported to police - only quantified what many Alaskans have known or suspected. Still, the numbers shock.

Wonkette is quick to invoke Palin's time as mayor of Wasilla, in which she allowed the PD to charge victims up to $1,200 for rape kits — thereby effectively discouraging victims from reporting assault. She was also criticized while Governor for not doing more to address the appalling numbers — and accused of putting the brakes on rape prevention because she didn't like the head of the program. But why are they so high in the first place? Yahoo's Shine blog suggested one theory in 2009 — beyond the widely-speculated "wild west" nature of the sparsely-populated state, that is: isolation.

With so much vast territory people are very isolated from each other. Alaska has many small villages besides the large city of Anchorage. It has been known for years now that small towns or villages are famous for hiding crime committed by their own members. So and so is related to this person or the other and to be quiet about such things is the law in small towns. Many of these small-populated areas are very conservative and consider crimes such as domestic violence, taboo. They consider these types of acts as personal and certainly not open to public scrutiny. Many sexual assailants get away with their violent crime while the victim has to suffer and hide the truth

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But whatever the reason: what is the state going to do to about this? It's unacceptable — and even if it's taken numbers this appalling to get the country's attention, you've got it now.

Alaska: Rape Capital Of America [Guardian]
Report: Rape, Sexual Assault Often Go Unreported In Alaska [KTUU]
Alaska Is America's Rape Land [Wonkette]
Our View: Stunning Numbers [Anchorage Daily News]

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Earlier:
Map Shows Every State Is Bad At Something

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DISCUSSION

Barkenhoff
Barkenhoff

I'm a former public defender from bush Alaska. The outrageous number reported by the ADN are insanely low. I can't tell you how many of my female clients would offhandedly make comments about being raped, molested, assaulted, etc. I had a few clients who were arrested for Minor Consumption of Alcohol in conjunction with their reporting being assaulted.

In the Alaska Native community, their is an epidemic of rape, incest, etc. I would estimate 90% of it goes unreported. There is a very big cultural stigma against reporting these abusers. I know of multiple families headed by patriarchs who have raped every single one of their offspring, cousins, etc. yet nothing is done. In the Inupiaq community, humility and respect for elders are part of the Inupiat Ilitqusait or Inupiaq values. For generations, people have been taught that it is wrong to speak up about your grandfather touching you or raping you because you are not respecting him or being huble and non-confrontational.

As other commenters noted, alcohol is a big factor as well. People in rural Alaskan communities don't drink the same way as most people do. To drink, is to binge-drink. A shot to most young rural Alaskans I worked with, was a coffee cup full of whiskey. People drink to pass out. There are an alarming number of voluntary intoxication rapes because of this. Fathers getting blind drunk, like BAC .350 or more drunk, and raping their 12 year old daughters because they don't even know who or where they are.

Also, something that always bothered me was the way rape and abuse are trivialized there. If someone says their relative molested them, they were "bothered" by them. If their husband split their lip and gave them a black eye, their husband was being "funny". The semantics always bothered me because it is so indicative of the trivialization and ennui with which these epidemics are treated in the rural communities.

Sorry for being so long-winded but living in that community and working so closely with the victims and perpetrators has broken my heart beyond all repair.