The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica are investigating sexual violence in Alaska, and why the situation isn’t getting better.
Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation. Yet it is a secret so steeped into everyday life that discussing it disrupts the norm. These women and men did not choose to be violated, but they now choose to speak about what happened.
At least one in three Alaska villages has no local law enforcement. Sexual abuse runs rampant, public safety resources are scarce, and Governor Mike Dunleavy wants to cut the budget.
The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica have teamed up to listen. Do you work with victims, in government or law enforcement? We need to hear from you, too.
Alaska Requires DNA Be Collected From People Arrested for Violent Crimes. Many Police Have Ignored That.
By failing to collect DNA samples when they arrest people as the law requires, Alaskan law enforcement left the state’s DNA database with crucial gaps, allowing at least one serial rapist to go undetected.
In the state with the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation, testing the backlog of rape kits may not be enough. Many were from cases where the identity of the suspect was already known, or were opened only to find no usable DNA.
As scandals force Alaska politicians to resign, nowhere have the accusations been more severe than this remote rural district, where male leaders are proving to be part of the very problems they’re supposed to be solving.
More than 30 years after telling a teacher that her stepfather was molesting her, Sherri Stewart is running out of time to understand why he remained free, and why she was sent back to endure more harm.
In 2018, Jody Potts was the target of misconduct from then-Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. Two days later, he resigned, but the details of what happened have never been publicly told until now.
During the pandemic, domestic violence has killed more people than COVID-19 in rural Alaska. It’s also limited emergency services, and without shelters, many say these deaths are no surprise.
An outdoor installation at the Anchorage Museum will feature 27 sexual violence survivors who chose to tell their stories publicly. "Without the stories, there is silence,” the museum’s director says.
For Decades, She Blamed Herself for the Abuse. Writing Her Story Was an Act of Survival. Publishing It Was an Act of Rebellion.
From early childhood, Tia Wakolee believed she was at fault for being repeatedly assaulted, then she began to chronicle her abuse on index cards arranged on her kitchen table and decided to share her truth.
Ricki Dahlin turned to a life of crime and drug addiction after being sexually abused as a child. “We’re broken. We’re trying to fix ourselves.”
Her Attacker Was Stopped in the Act and Arrested, but This Assault Was Only the Beginning of Her Trauma
Everything Mary Savage did in the hours after the attack was dissected on the witness stand, an experience so upsetting she vomited. But years later, she finds comfort knowing her testimony led to his conviction.
In an era before rape kits, Sue Royston decided to fight for justice even though the police doubted her, the prosecution discouraged her, and those around her dismissed her story.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Marie Sakar tried to treat her trauma with alcohol until she learned that silence only serves to protect those who hurt her. Now, she’s back, sober and teaching in her hometown.
Cathleen was raped five hours into a multi-day fishing trip, where she and the captain who assaulted her were the only ones on board. She begged to be taken back to shore, but he said no, they had work to do.
We consulted six professionals in Alaska who work with survivors of sexual assault, including a therapist, a law enforcement officer, advocates for survivors, a nurse and a prosecutor. We compiled their guidance on the choices survivors can make.
In capturing these photographs, the aim was to portray the underlying courage and strength of each person and to focus on who they had become.
Journalists from ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News spent months hearing from, and listening to, dozens of survivors about how they processed their trauma. Here’s how we told these stories fairly and accurately.
We’re publishing our most ambitious effort yet to give voice to those who have been sexually assaulted in Alaska. We have talked to hundreds of survivors over the past year who have shared their stories.
An Elementary School Repeatedly Dismissed Allegations Against Its Principal. Then, an FBI Agent Pretended to Be a 13-Year-Old Girl.
The principal for one of Alaska’s largest rural elementary schools, in a region with some of the highest sex crime rates in the country and a state with a history of failing to protect students, was allowed to remain on the job until the FBI got involved.
ProPublica and Local Reporting Partner Anchorage Daily News Win Pulitzer Prizes for National Reporting and Public Service
The two designations are ProPublica’s 6th Pulitzer win in 12 years and the first Pulitzer awarded to a Local Reporting Network partner.