Rape Crisis Grips Alaska's Small Towns

Young people take lead in addressing deep-seated issue
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2014 6:44 AM CDT
Rape Crisis Grips Alaska's Small Towns
In this May 7, 2014, file photo, residents make their way along First Street in the village of Tanana, Alaska.   (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric Engman, File)

Rape occurs in Alaska at a rate almost three times the national average, and 59% of the state's women have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, according to figures that researchers call conservative. The state is, in short, the country's "rape capital," but some—among them a group of young people—are fighting to change that, the Atlantic reports. The 4-H club in the small town of Tanana has served as a venue for youths to discuss brutal experiences including sexual violence; that group has now traveled around the state to speak up about issues few want to talk about. "I’m still young and I’m already sick of it," says one member and sexual assault victim. "It’s happening in his house, in her house, even in your own bed."

A huge array of factors may explain the problem in Alaska. For one thing, law enforcement is lacking throughout the state, which is peppered with remote communities—at least 75 of which don't have local police, per a report last year. It can take a long time for distant state troopers to address a report, and more than half of those reports don't reach the district attorney, the Atlantic notes. Many victims don't want to rattle tiny towns with accusations, especially when the attacker is someone they know well and perhaps depend on. For many, the experience is simply a part of life. "People get mad at me when I say it’s become tradition, but it has," says a nurse. "We’re talking about third-generation violence. That’s tradition." Click for Sara Bernard's full piece. (More Alaska stories.)

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