Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Rapist Next Door
February 4, 2014 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Alaska's rape rate is the highest in the country -- three times the national average. To find out why, I went to Alaska to talk with victims, politicians -- and the rapists.

5 ways to help end rape in Alaska
posted by Blasdelb (54 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Read this earlier today. Was wondering if it would show up here.

A bit of warning, there are sections I personally found disturbing enough that I had to temporarily stop reading and catch my breath, although your own mileage may vary.
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


ANDVSA has a valuable list of Alaskan hotlines and shelters, broken down by geographical area, for those who may find themselves in need after finding this article.

(And I've reported the site issue to them where the local and toll-free numbers are merged unexpectedly. Toll-free starts with "1-800-", and should be free from any phone.)
posted by crysflame at 2:44 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


there's a map on the page showing, by state, where rape is most common, and it's clear that there are some similarities, though not a direct visual correlation, between which states have a high incidence and which states have large areas of native american reservation land.
Is there a way to read this article and not come away with the idea that 'alaska' is just a way of saying 'native american country'.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:45 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. I couldn't make it through the article, but those numbers are... I don't know what to say about them. 37% of women in Alaska are sexually assaulted? 37%? What the hell?
posted by hank_14 at 2:46 PM on February 4


Is there a way to read this article and not come away with the idea that 'alaska' is just a way of saying 'native american country'.

Hasn't rape on Native reservations been a big issue for a very long time? There is no shortage of writing about it.
posted by critzer at 2:50 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


That's a powerful read, thanks for posting. It's kind of frustrating to me that even though the writer acknowledges that fewer than half of the men he surveyed at that meeting (and about 30% nationally) were sexually abused as children, most of the sound-bites come from those who have experienced abuse in the past. There's a real danger in glossing over the majority of sex offenders who haven't experienced abuse in their personal histories, and in focusing only on the link between past abuse and future perpetuation of the cycle of violence. For those people who have had a childhood free of abuse, what makes them turn on their fellow humans with such callow disregard for psychological and physical safety, bodily autonomy, personal dignity? That's a toxicity that I want better understood.
posted by Phire at 2:51 PM on February 4 [32 favorites]


Still reading the article, but Alaska has more men than women, which is the inverse of the usual trend.

And what is the rural/urban split? I have a narrative in my mind of isolated communities, coupled with weird demographics, leading to more sexual assaults even in the non-native community.

No idea if that's just bizarrely wrong on my part or some part of an answer.
posted by jsturgill at 2:52 PM on February 4


hank_14: "37% of women in Alaska are sexually assaulted?"

It's actually worse than that if you look at "sexual violence, domestic abuse or the threat of violence" throughout an Alaskan woman's lifetime. The number jumps to 59%. "Nearly six in 10 women."
posted by zarq at 2:52 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Is there a way to read this article and not come away with the idea that 'alaska' is just a way of saying 'native american country'.

From reading the article, it seems like a couple of generations of indigenous Alaskans were widely abused (sexually and otherwise) by social workers and in boarding schools and that has echoed through the generations to the present day. So the original perpetrators were white.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:53 PM on February 4 [11 favorites]


I didn't mean to imply in any way that the perps were native.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:54 PM on February 4


Still reading the article, but Alaska has more men than women, which is the inverse of the usual trend.

That was my thought too, but I looked at the stats by state and found that Hawaii has the second highest ratio of men to women and the 6th lowest number of forcible rapes.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:58 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


forcible rapes

Wow, is that the term actually used in the statistics?
posted by indubitable at 3:01 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


"Is there a way to read this article and not come away with the idea that 'alaska' is just a way of saying 'native american country'."

Rape on the Reservation (41:56)
According to national statistics, one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes. Vanguard correspondent Mariana Van Zeller travels to Rosebud reservation in South Dakota to investigate the alarmingly high incidence of rape and sexual assaults. What happened to 19-year-old Marquita, and how can the reservation's understaffed police force keep it from happening again? Candid interviews with her family members, classmates and police reveal many of the disturbing social attitudes and behaviors that lead up to her death.

"I didn't mean to imply in any way that the perps were native."

Indeed, at least elsewhere in the States more than 4 out of 5 perps are non-native.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:01 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]



That was my thought too, but I looked at the stats by state and found that Hawaii has the second highest ratio of men to women and the 6th lowest number of forcible rapes.


Isn't Hawaii much more urban, developed, and small than Alaska?

Not to mention the weather is more pleasant.

Six months of darkness, freezing cold, frustrated sexuality, lack of oversight, isolation... That's a weird mixture of pressures, I think. Wonder what the statistics are in rural Canada.

I also wonder what modern native life is like in Hawaii.

Interesting to see the huge jump from Michigan at #3 (46.4) to South Dakota (70.2) and Alaska (79.7) in second and first places for rapes per 100,000 people.
posted by jsturgill at 3:05 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Alaska also has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates (twice the national average) in the nation and the highest number of suicides.
posted by vegartanipla at 3:13 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Indeed, at least elsewhere in the States more than 4 out of 5 perps are non-native.

Yeah, the main problem in the lower 48 is that tribal cops can't pursue and collar suspects off the rez.
posted by ocschwar at 3:24 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


forcible rapes

Wow, is that the term actually used in the statistics?


There's a legal difference between forcible rape and aggravated rape:

Forcible rape is a rape where the anal or vaginal sexual intercourse is deemed to be without the lawful consent of the victim. In a forcible rape, the victim is prevented from resisting the sexual act because of the offender’s use of force or threats of physical violence, under circumstances where the victim reasonably believes that such resistance would not prevent the rape. [Edwards v. Butler, 882 F.2d 160, 163 (5th Cir. 1989)]. Attempts to commit rape are also included as forcible rape. Forcible rape is different from aggravated rape. The difference is based on the degree of force employed for the unlawful sexual act and the extent to which the victim resists.

An aggravated rape is an offense of rape that is committed under circumstances which render the offense more heinous. The severity of the crime may be increased because of factors such as tender age of the victim, blood relationship between the accused and the victim, the victim is aged, the offender is armed with a weapon, , and more than one offender rapes the victim. The exact definition of the term varies from state to state and from nation to nation. An aggravated rape is different from a forcible rape. Rape which occurs during commission of specified crimes, such as assault and battery by means of dangerous weapon, constitutes aggravated rape, punishable by harsher penalties than simple rape. [Commonwealth v. Williams (1987) 23 Mass App 716, 505 NE2d 233, 1987 Mass App LEXIS 1786].
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:30 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


I don't have stats on this, but I wonder from seeing the behavior of the seasonal fishermen in the Aleutians how much of this is attributable to the lifestyle that type of work creates.

Many of the people I met while living there were young men, not well educated, who had never been away from home before. And now they were working on a fishing boat, making more money in 3 months than they'd seen in their whole lives, and working crazy hours.

When you have a schedule like some crabbers who are 3 weeks on, 1 off, you can guess what happens on that 1 off. Workers come into port, flush with money and adrenaline and (often) whatever stimulants they've been using to stay awake on their long shifts on the boats, and don't have much to do because hey it's a small town in Alaska where they've landed.
I've witnessed this leading to fights, stabbings, and drug use. I wouldn't be surprised if it also led to sexual assault though thankfully I didn't experience or witness assault. I did experience a whole lot of harassment as a single young woman in a fishing port, and I could easily see that escalating to something physical if I hadn't have been as lucky.

The combination of the "fleet week" mentality, the need for quick and immediate stress relief, and the fact that this is not their home and no one knows them or will probably see them again or tell them apart from other fishermen that come in off boats every day definitely affects the attitude of how they treat people.
posted by rmless at 3:32 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


The focus on rapists who had been assaulted in the article (they were the only directly quoted rapists) was unpleasant for me. It's somehow insulting to all the survivors who manage not to sexually assault other people. Somehow it came across to me as a quasi-excuse - not from the interviewer, perhaps, but from the interviewed.

I understand that the reporter probably couldn't get honest discussion from rapists who don't have some kind of excuse, but it could at least have been pointed out, not obscured with multiple point of view remarks from the minority of offenders. True he states that is the case, but having quotes only from that group effectively obscures the fact.

My heart also hurts for that poor man's stepdaughter, because in her situation if her mother refuses to exile the man from her family circle, what can she do? Of course she has to accept being around him in those circumstances.
posted by winna at 3:35 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


Wow, is that the term actually used in the statistics?


"Forcible rape" is also distinguished from statutory rape, which is its own animal entirely.
posted by fifthrider at 3:37 PM on February 4


One of the most heartbreaking things to me about this article is how rape is so common that the author had to specify that:

"Claire had a son from a consensual relationship."
posted by lollusc at 3:52 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


I'm kinda curious about why New Jersey is more than twice as safe as the American average. Low reporting rates or are they doing something right?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:02 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I find it odd that the author reports on a male non-offending victim, as well as the past abuse history of the offenders, then continues to frame all victims as women, especially when talking about childhood abuse, where male victims are alarmingly common. I wish we could get to a point in the societal discussion where we're comfortable and consistent in pointing out that sexual assault and abuse survivors may be any gender, and that perpetrators are overwhelmingly men. Stories talking about public policy that skirt around either of those facts get weird and confusing.
posted by jaguar at 4:21 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Rmless, yea.

A friend of mine co-owns a bigass fishing boat up there with his cousin and a few other people. He's worked on all different boats as a contractor/regular crew, owner-operator, etc.(And amusingly, his boat has also been used in a couple movies). He's burned out multiple times, but generally ends up going back when he's flat broke and unemployed again because the money is so good and comes so quick.

The way he describes it is pretty fucked up and grim. Both the ports of alaska, and life on the boat. Working from when you wake up til you get in bed besides some tiny breaks to eat, jacking off in shifts in the same tiny disgusting bathroom when you were supposedly in your bunk, drinking a lot. Getting shot at by psychotic drunk fishermen on other boats. All kinds of shit. He narrowly escaped death or wheelchair-for-life para/quadriplegic level disability from stupid accidents or just act of god type of situations multiple times.

The two stories that stood out though were when he was incredibly lonely and his girlfriend was unemployed, so he flew her up and they paid her to cook food and do some menial not-super-physically strenuous jobs on the boat(Which is vaguely relevant, but mostly just about how incredibly misogynistic and shitty everyone was to her), and the behavior in port.

Now he doesn't really do drugs(...when he's working, "drugs are for it being home! not for being working"), but the amount of blacked out drunk/barred out on xanax or other stuff and drunk out of their minds type of stuff he described seeing or participated in a few times when they were in port blew my mind. And i mean, i'm not a hardcore mormon or anything. I've toured as a musician, hung out with similar people, and gotten in to some fucked up situations and ridiculous trouble.

But no, imagine that "sports fan flipping over cars and setting them on fire" mentality but without the mob, and in complete isolation. There's boredom, frustration(sexual, and otherwise), testosterone/macho bullshit, and every other bad element to create the perfect storm of that situation you can describe.

Imagine the worst frat house scenario, but with the frat boys outnumbering the police in some otherwise sleepy(by greater american standards) little town who feel even more than those types usually do that there's really no law above them. They'll be gone in two days and no one will remember even their first names, much less their last.

Now do i think that's the whole story? no. An ex of mine i still keep in touch with grew up there until about the end of elementary school... and experienced this kind of abuse. And other people were complicit. The town she lived in was a port, but was also one of the biggest cities in alaska and all the shittiness there came from fucked up locals.

I honestly think there's three big elements here:

1. The "You can't touch me, you'll never see me again, let loose!" out of towners on boats
2. The shitty locals
3. This weird "don't ask don't tell" rural american culture(which i've also seen and heard of in other northwest american small towns) of "sweeping it under the rug because it's embarrassing and not public business"

As a closing note, off the top of my head i know probably 8 people who have lived or worked in alaska, and two who grew up there. One is a guy. The two who grew up there, one of whom i already mentioned, are both women and both talked at length about their shitty experiences there and how quickly they wanted to get the fuck out.

The others were girls i went to highschool with who who right out of school got summer jobs working at a fish cannery, housing provided. Every single one of them got raped, it was like a fucking horror movie plot(not to cheapen it, not my intention). When the experience of this group was related to the two who grew up there, their reaction was a very unsurprised "Oh, yep" as if i had described someone sliding off the road and totalling their while visiting a snowy area to someone who grew up there; incredibly offhandedly.

What a fucked place.
posted by emptythought at 4:23 PM on February 4 [22 favorites]


I'd never avoid involving the police in something where I am, but it's not like I'm going to know them personally. It's not like people are going to hear about it and whisper when I pass in the street. If people I knew found out about something that had happened to me and shamed me for it, I could go find other friends in town. I don't have to move to get away from it. I don't think I'd ever recognized before how much a higher population density means that you can go ahead and say something because your general way of life is not nearly as much at risk as it is in a small town. I'm still not out to anybody from my hometown because I am 95% sure that it would get back to my mother and she doesn't even live there anymore. I can't imagine how much worse that could be with other things.
posted by Sequence at 4:26 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Native Alaskans make up 61% of rape victims in Alaska. NYT story from 2012. Alaska Dispatch blog post from 2013.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:43 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


But I am rooting for him. I know he has the potential to grow into the meaning of his indigenous name: "a person you can go to for help." He proved that when he encouraged Alice, his stepdaughter and victim, to pursue her GED diploma.

This is just mindblowing to me. So if your parent abuses and rapes you, over and over, for a fucking decade, all they have to do is say 'gosh, shouldn't have done that, my bad,' and then urge you to get a basic education, and somehow that means that they're a good guy now? He says that it wasn't your fault, and now he "deserve[s] a chance at redemption"?

Must be nice for them, I guess. Tough potatoes to the people who were, you know, raped, and are still dealing with the trauma of that. The important thing is that we let rapists have a chance at redemption. After all, they've earned it, right?
posted by MeghanC at 5:07 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]


This is just mindblowing to me. So if your parent abuses and rapes you, over and over, for a fucking decade, all they have to do is say 'gosh, shouldn't have done that, my bad,' and then urge you to get a basic education, and somehow that means that they're a good guy now? He says that it wasn't your fault, and now he "deserve[s] a chance at redemption"?

Must be nice for them, I guess. Tough potatoes to the people who were, you know, raped, and are still dealing with the trauma of that. The important thing is that we let rapists have a chance at redemption. After all, they've earned it, right?


As was mentioned several times in the article, his wife is in it to make sure he doesn't rape again. She views it as a service she has been called to do, even if against her wishes.

Men in the program he is in have recidivism rates less than half of the usual.

The punishpunishpunish mentality only goes so far. It seems like everyone involved is doing what they can to actually make everyone else safer, make him accountable, and heal as many wounds as possible.
posted by jsturgill at 5:33 PM on February 4 [13 favorites]


The important thing is that we let rapists have a chance at redemption. After all, they've earned it, right?

So you're a big fan of a punitive retribution-based justice system, rather than a reformative one? Unusual point of view to see on Metafilter.
posted by Jimbob at 5:39 PM on February 4


MeghanC: Must be nice for them, I guess. Tough potatoes to the people who were, you know, raped, and are still dealing with the trauma of that. The important thing is that we let rapists have a chance at redemption. After all, they've earned it, right?

Those communities are pretty small and they're already kind of teetering on the edge of survival (between the difficulty of making a living up there, the harsh natural environment, and things like alcoholism). If they didn't try to rehabilitate those individuals, those communities might not survive their loss.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:17 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


His wife invited the man who raped her child back into her life, and the life of her child. Alice has "accepted" that he lives there, but if your choice is to cut off contact with your mother or accept that you're going to spend the rest of your life seeing your rapist regularly, you're sort of between a rock and a hard place.

I am, generally speaking, a huge fan of reformative justice, and of giving people who've done something stupid another chance. What I'm not, however, is a fan of a system that is effectively putting the burden of said reform on the shoulders of the community that's been harmed by the crimes, especially when there's no mention of any sort of reparation or services for the victim.

I'm not clear on why a rapist "trying to reform" is news, really. Would you like to reform? It's very easy: don't fucking rape people. Don't groom children to accept your sexual advances. Don't press your genitalia against people without their consent, and remember that people under [age of consent in Alaska] can't give their consent. No one would talk about a murderer "trying to reform", as if it were somehow just part of human nature to murder people, and this guy has made a grave but understandable error in judgement. If you're somehow sincerely incapable of just not raping people, then you're severely mentally ill, and you need to seek treatment for that--but there's very little in this article about that sort of professional help, just an ad-hoc "network of support". Neither medication nor therapy is discussed except brief references to counselors and the bit about the bottle of ammonia that he sniffs when he feels the urge to rape.

I agree that everyone involved is doing what they can to make others safer, but what I'm disgusted by is the implication that it's somehow their responsibility to do so. There's a lot of discussion about what other people are doing, and very little about what Sheldon (or any other rapist) is or should be doing. It's mentioned in passing that he went to jail, and that he said that the rape wasn't Alice's fault. At no point is an apology mentioned, or any sort of remorse. It's also mentioned that he was sexually assaulting girls from when he was "very young". It's mentioned that he's "a man who counselors say can never be trusted, not 100%; who does everything he can to seem like he's on the right track; who, his therapist told me, had sex with a dead and frozen seal once because he was so aroused." I have no idea how anyone could feel comfortable releasing a man who is that mentally unstable into the community, and I quite honestly have no idea why anyone should.

I will admit that part of my anger here is at the article and the author--I went into this expecting a discussion of social and geographical factors that could contribute to Alaska's appalling rate of rape, and instead, I was handed a lengthy discussion about one unbelievably fucked-up man and an exciting new program that shifts, yet again, the burden to prevent rape onto the shoulders of women--I can't be the only one who noticed that literally every support person interviewed was a woman--and the community at large, and seems to do its best to absolve the actual rapists of any culpability.

There are so many ways that this project--either the discussion of Alaska's high incidence of rape or the program to stop recidivism--could have been presented that would have made it less appalling and less apologetic, and the author chose not to do so.

Forgiveness isn't something that a rapist or violent criminal ever earns or, in my opinion, deserves. It is a gift that they can be given, but it's a gift that often comes at great cost to the giver, and no one writing about or participating in a program like this should ever, ever forget that.
posted by MeghanC at 6:34 PM on February 4 [39 favorites]


I think it's important to remember the role of race and racism in this particular instance, and though the author mentioned it, I wish he had gone deeper. White people locking up people of color and further destroying communities we've already attempted to exterminate is not always the best solution to dealing with crime.
posted by jaguar at 6:49 PM on February 4


zarq: ""sexual violence, domestic abuse or the threat of violence" throughout an Alaskan woman's lifetime. The number jumps to 59%. "Nearly six in 10 women.""

Is threat of violence some sort of jargon term? Because I would have thought that lifetime that would have been essentially 100%.
posted by Mitheral at 6:52 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I assume they mean women actively threatened with specific violence, but yeah, I'm having a hard time reading the Alaska statistics as WAY DIFFERENT than anywhere else in the US, in general. I know there's a huge jump in risk for women on reservations, but again, that's true in most of the US. And the huge risk is absolutely a problem, and something that's long since reached crisis proportions, but the reporter's "oh em gee women get assaulted! At very high rates! I never knew that!" stance at the beginning of the article also bugged me.
posted by jaguar at 7:03 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted; if you want people to go read a short story, maybe just say so rather than posting a disturbing excerpt without context.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:11 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


His wife invited the man who raped her child back into her life, and the life of her child. Alice has "accepted" that he lives there, but if your choice is to cut off contact with your mother or accept that you're going to spend the rest of your life seeing your rapist regularly, you're sort of between a rock and a hard place.

I am, generally speaking, a huge fan of reformative justice, and of giving people who've done something stupid another chance. What I'm not, however, is a fan of a system that is effectively putting the burden of said reform on the shoulders of the community that's been harmed by the crimes, especially when there's no mention of any sort of reparation or services for the victim.


Right - it certainly seems like a good idea for him to live in *A* community, with *A* safety net of volunteers where he can learn to live a normal life without reoffending. But it seems like a bit much for it to have to be *THE* community where his repeated victim has to see him and deal with him every day while she's trying to recover. Couldn't the program relocate him to the next town or something?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:31 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


The fishing thing has nothing to do with this. None of the villages mentioned here are commercial fishing ports of the sort described above. Dutch and Kodiak are the main ports and they are far, far away from these places. Most fishermen live elsewhere, fly up from out of state, fish for a few months and fly home. There do support robust stripping and prostitution industries but that's not the issue in the article. Total derail. too.
posted by fshgrl at 8:35 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


The focus on rapists who had been assaulted in the article (they were the only directly quoted rapists) was unpleasant for me. It's somehow insulting to all the survivors who manage not to sexually assault other people. Somehow it came across to me as a quasi-excuse - not from the interviewer, perhaps, but from the interviewed.

Sexually predatory men I and female friends have encountered have been quite fluent and comfortable in talking about their own sexual abuse histories, and even publicly identifying as "survivors"--this is even sometimes how they build trust or find targets for sketchy-to-violent behavior.

I blame the fact that we do create a black and white dichotomy: perpetrators= all bad, sub-human monsters; victims = survivors worthy of unconditional love and support, in the right circles (whether or not that actually happens is a different story, of course--childhood sexual assault victims have a higher chance of being treated with compassion for "coming out" than adult, or even pubescent, ones).

What would be absolutely transformative would be if we could also get people to talk--at least behind closed doors--about how being taught as a young child that sex is something to manipulate or take from a weaker person who owes that to you, can obviously prime you to take on these attitudes and behaviors yourself unless you reach for support and stay vigilant about it, and work on this as much as you work on self-love.

The men I've known who have offended, who were victims of childhood sexual abuse, literally couldn't understand they had done anything wrong (even as they acted out the same patterns they shared had deeply damaged them), because it was too much of a mind fuck: perpetrators are monsters, and I am a survivor who advocates against childhood sexual assault, so I am not a monster, and therefore even when I act out perpetrator behaviors, because it is *I* who is doing it, I am not a perpetrator.

I'm not a fan of child molesters or rapists more than anyone else, but until we make it OK to talk about how they are created and not born, for the most part, by the same actions they inflict on others, no man (or woman) who has suffered from childhood sexual assault will ever be able to seek help for, or even acknowledge, repeating the cycle. That would be true bravery: to stand in front of a group of your peers and say not just, "I am a man who has been sexually abused as a child," but, "I am a man who has been sexually abused, and I am a good person, but sometimes the same behaviors that I was taught by my abuser seem normative since I was a young child and I didn't get a chance to learn healthy boundaries...and now I am the one with more power who wants sex when I want it and am owed it and I think they'll like it once I get started."
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:50 PM on February 4 [10 favorites]


The stories in the article are wrenching. However, it was also incredibly frustrating how the article didn't even make a gesture at breaking down the overall statistics by race or village vs city? Left undifferentiated, it hides how risk of sexual violence is not spread evenly across the state, and almost certainly makes the already awful statistics even more horrifying.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:06 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I can't help thinking that the rampant alcoholism in Alaska has to play a bigger part in this than #6 on the list. It was only touched on once, but both Alice's father and mother were abusing alcohol, which obviously

But it seems like a bit much for it to have to be *THE* community where his repeated victim has to see him and deal with him every day while she's trying to recover. Couldn't the program relocate him to the next town or something?

He could not have moved in without Alice's consent, though there were surely a lot of factors at play there. It seems really uncomfortable to me, but I am also really uncomfortable looking at a native culture I'm not part of and saying that justice should work there like it does here. I genuinely don't think this article provided enough information about the origins of this programme for me to form a conclusion.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:47 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


He could not have moved in without Alice's consent, though there were surely a lot of factors at play there.

A lot of incredibly powerful factors. It may have technically been consent, but what choice did she really have? Yes, Sheldon needs a support network to keep from reoffending, but Alice's need for a support network to heal from years of abuse is far, far greater. Said abuse may have left her without the social and coping skills to form a new network out on her own.

I wish the author had mentioned what kind of organizations were there helping the victims, as well - it would have been great to get a better picture of the whole situation. As it is, the picture that's being painted by the article is one of one person's needs being put above the other's.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:24 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


As it is, the picture that's being painted by the article is one of one person's needs being put above the other's.

You don't know the reality, though, and you're ignoring major cultural factors in play here. We're talking about groups of people whose populations have been close to wiped out by white people and white institutions. There may not be "another village" to send him to. Alice may sincerely place the emotional needs of her community over her personal emotional needs, and that can be a totally healthy and appropriate response in more communal cultures (which are pretty much all cultures outside the white US culture). She may find that by healing her community, she heals herself. By healing her family, she heals herself. Or she just may not want to see yet another member of her community carted off by white people.

Yes, of course there may also be coercion, subtle or not. But it's really short-sighted to assume that her needs and priorities are the same as yours, or that any of these communities' needs and priorities are the same as mainstream white American culture. And when we turn those assumptions into public health or social justice policies, we tend to alienate the communities we're trying to serve.

Given that the rape-prevention/treatment organization of which this family is a member seems to be coming organically from the cultural groups it's serving, I really think we need to refrain from imposing our own cultural norms when deciding what victims "need" in these situations.
posted by jaguar at 6:41 PM on February 7


Jaguar, I don't know that your assumptions are any more correct than any other assumptions are made here. It's possible that Alice and the other victims feel that in healing their communities, they're healing themselves; it's equally possible that they feel that the supposed emphasis on community means that if they fail to accept their rapists back into their lives, they'll be blamed or ostracized. She may not want to see another member of her community carted off by white people--or she may be desperate to see that, and unable to say so because the knows the censure that it'll bring down on her from people who don't want to see someone else carted off.

We don't actually know anything at all about how the victims feel about this. Their participation is noted, and they've "consented" to various living arrangements or whatever, but outside of that, the entire story is how the rapists feel and what people are doing to help the rapists. This is a failing on the part of the article, and it leaves the field wide open for speculation--for rape victims and people who live in fear of sexual violence to project their own feelings and needs onto the victims discussed in the story, for people to make suppositions about cultural influences, whatever. The author could have easily spent even a single section of the article discussing cultural mores or victim reactions to this program, and he chose not to.

I can't help but wonder if the reason for the omission was because the narratives of the victims wouldn't line up with the rest of his article--if introducing narratives from the people who were hurt most by this would also mean introducing an element of controversy that he wasn't interested in addressing. I feel strongly that the inclusion of more from the women who were raped would have greatly strengthened the story--their omission raises questions and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by MeghanC at 11:46 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Jaguar, I don't know that your assumptions are any more correct than any other assumptions are made here.

Except that if you do any research at all into why Native Americans tend to refuse mental health services, that research backs up my points.
posted by jaguar at 1:47 AM on February 8


I didn't see this posted in the thread. The Washington Post had a feature article Saturday entitled "New law offers a ‘sliver’ of protection to abused Native American women," by Sari Horowitz. It is excellent journalism.
posted by spitbull at 5:00 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Also, can I just add that as someone who spends a lot of time in Alaska Native villages that some of the comments in this thread seem unintentionally clueless about the reality of such places, and about Native cultural traditions for dealing with crimes and breaches of the social order. I know sexual assault and rape are heavily moralized topics, as they should be, but consider that other moral systems exist than the one you are familiar with.

Andrew Maclean, and Iñupiaq film maker, made a wonderful Sundance-winning film called *On the Ice* (in Iñupiaq, "Sikumi") a couple of years back (starring an all local Alaska Native cast). The plot of the film is that one hunter sees another hunter, in a fit of rage, murder a third hunter over a radio. The witness, who knows the killer and the victim and their families, must decide whether to report the killer to the police, in which case he will go to jail and the community will lost his hunting productivity and his family will struggle, or to hold him to a solemn promise that he will take care of the family of the man he has killed.

I know it's amazing to contemplate, but in the Inuit tradition, which includes a robust concept of redemption and forgiveness, that is not a simple moral dilemma at all. I won't tell you how it ends. But here's the trailer.
posted by spitbull at 7:12 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


From spitbull's fantastic WaPo article:

Proponents of the law acknowledge that it was drawn narrowly to win support in Congress, particularly from Republican lawmakers who argued that non-native suspects would not receive a fair trial in the tribal justice system.

ARGH. And given the unfair treatment given to non-white people in the US and state courts, quadruple ARGH.

Diane Millich grew up on the Southern Ute Indian reservation, nestled in the mountain meadows of southwestern Colorado. When she was 26, she fell in love and married a non-Indian man who lived in a town just beyond the reservation.

Not long after they were married, Millich’s husband moved in with her and began to push and slap her, she said. The violence escalated, and the abuse, she said, became routine. She called the tribal police and La Plata County authorities many times but was told they had no jurisdiction in the case.

One time after her husband beat her, Millich said, he picked up the phone and called the sheriff to report the incident himself to show that he couldn’t be arrested, she said. He knew, she said, there was nothing the sheriff could do.


I cannot imagine how frustrating and dehumanizing it must be to have white people abuse, rape, and murder your community with absolutely no legal penalty even possible, and then have white people come in and tell you you should lock up or banish your community members when they are the ones committing the crimes. Good lord, that's fucked up on all levels.

US Congress has done nothing to fix this situation since a court case pointed out the problem in 1978; Atty General Holder at least took some action, but it won't come into effect until 2015 for most reservations, and even then does not apply to Alaska because of political pressure. ARGH.

It's a hard read, but Louise Erdrich's The Round House is a story about crime on reservations and this jurisdictional hand-tying.
posted by jaguar at 2:17 PM on February 9


I feel like we're discussing two different things here: the program as it exists, which doubtlessly is heavily related to local culture and etc, and the program as it is described in the article, which is presented as culturally neutral carefully avoids discussing race and cultural influences. The only person who's presented as unambiguously native is Sheldon. Possibly other people are coded that way (Ruth, for example) and generic you would pick up on that if you're more familiar with native Alaskan culture I am. Given, though, this a mainstream publication on CNN, which is about the height of mainstream news in US, I think it's short sighted to assume that a lower-48 audience would able read those codes, let alone able be able to intuit the cultural factors that contribute program's success.

Again, I feel that this is a massive failing on the part of the author, not necessarily the program.
posted by MeghanC at 4:14 PM on February 9


I absolutely agree the article presents a lot about the program, and the problem, extremely poorly. I wish they had assigned someone with more background knowledge about sexual assault, especially in native populations, to the article.

I am working on the assumption that Ruth at least is native (since Alice is adopted, I'm not speculating on her ethnicity, but if she was raised in the native culture, then culturally she would native, too); possibly mainly because it mentions she keeps dried salmon and seal oil on her kitchen table. Later in the article the author starts speaking more specifically about Yupik culture, and I think this bit frames the article as a piece about sexual assault in Native Alaskan communities:

"All of the secrets and the harm – the sexual violence – came after contact" between Alaska Natives and white settlers, said Joan Dewey, mental health clinician who works with sex offenders and has been trying to understand rape in the state.

None of this is an excuse for violence. There is none. But it does go a long way toward explaining why Alaska has the highest rape rate in America.

It would be a mistake to see rape as an isolated problem.

It and so many other social ills grow from the same root.

The social fabric of Alaska has been torn.


He later writes,

At 16, Claire told a teacher – turned him in. But the community blamed her, and her family disowned the high-school girl. She has to wonder, now, if it's because she was female and he was male. She didn't work and he hunted and fished – provided not just for her family but also for the entire Alaska Native village.

I think, basically, that anytime one talks about remote Alaskan villages, one is probably talking about Native populations. But you're absolutely right, the author does not make it clear; I think he uses "community" as a more politically correct alternative to "tribe," but he should have clarified whom he was really talking about.
posted by jaguar at 5:33 PM on February 9


Now that I'm looking at the article again, he does really conflate a bunch of populations. I suspect the rates of sexual assault are even higher if one counts only Native victims, and his focus on Native perpetrators ignores the different offending rates between Natives and whites.
posted by jaguar at 5:37 PM on February 9


Montana Prosecutor Allegedly Told Mother of 5-Year-Old Sexual-Assault Victim That "Boys Will Be Boys" - And other shocking details from the Justice Department's report on the Missoula County Attorney's Office.
posted by homunculus at 2:14 PM on February 20


In another case, the Justice Department spoke to a woman whose daughter was sexually assaulted, at the age of five, by an adolescent boy, who was sentenced to two years of community service for the crime. A prosecutor handling the case allegedly told the mother that "boys will be boys."

Change "prosecutor" to "school superintendent on whose cooperation the prosecutor's ability to make the case stick depended," and change "sentenced to two years of community service" to "got off scot-free," and that was my case exactly. Those exact words. I was hoping we had come a bit further than that in all these years.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:26 PM on February 20


God, that's awful. I do not understand WTF is wrong with these people. It often seems like we're actually going further backwards.
posted by homunculus at 4:48 PM on February 27


The Word You Are Searching for Is Rape: Why sexual abuse, sexual assault, and molestation don’t always cut it.

"Men's Rights" Activists Are Trying to Redefine the Meaning of Rape
posted by homunculus at 4:58 PM on February 27


« Older 7 Hand Gestures That Make You Look Like a Real Int...  |  The media have begun to arrive... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments