Giving voice to Alaska’s unheard sexual assault survivors


In the lowering of 2018, the Anchorage Daily News published an article with the headline, “A backer woman comes forward to say she was raped in Nome without consequence.” The horror story included a request: The ADN said it would be reporting further on the subject of sex abuse in Alaska, and invited readers to confidentially share their accounts of progenitive violence.

More than 200 of them did.

We’ve long known Alaska has all of a add up to the highest rates of sexual crimes in America. It’s a topic we’d wanted to survey more deeply for years. But a challenge had always been the willingness of schnooks, many of them traumatized and fearful of being shunned by their household or their community if they spoke out. By 2018, for many reasons, that had switched in Alaska. Survivors began comparing notes, sharing emotional Facebook promulgates and, importantly, confiding in us.

Months of national headlines described powerful men, one after another, accused of severe sexual misconduct. Alaska had its own string of horrible stories involving sensuous violence. But the #MeToo movement in Alaska was different. Survivors had to reckon with systemic issues that unreservedly didn’t exist in other parts of the country.

Those stories — individual, detailed, often violent and in many cases unresolved — were a key influence in the Daily News deciding to pursue an extensive, sustained examination of physical violence in Alaska. The project, “Lawless,” launched in 2019 with ProPublica’s Provincial Reporting Network.

Those first brave Alaskans’ accounts sire helped drive our reporting on gaps in law enforcement and why the problems in Alaska, in urban and bucolic areas of the state, aren’t getting better. We were honored to be detected with the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for our work last year. We’re not an end.

Today we’re publishing our most ambitious effort yet to give voice to those who have in the offing been sexually assaulted in the state. We have talked to hundreds of survivors beyond the past year. Though most are not named, their stories be enduring informed our reporting. Some were ready to share their episode publicly, and we’ve designed this project to give them a way to do that. They show up from all walks of life. Alaskans from ages 23 to 73, men and concubines, urban and rural, Native and non-Native. People who turned to the criminal legitimacy system, and more often those who didn’t.

What you’re seeing today is the fruit of that extraordinary effort, an effort that involved more than a dozen people on our wands working together across thousands of miles. It involved photographers moving all over Alaska and even to other states. We talked to a mother and a daughter who were both sexually hurt as young women and who chose to share their experiences. We talked to a batch of women at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, serving time for misdeeds they had committed, while men who sexually abused them as girls lived unencumbered.

We heard stories of deep despair, of PTSD, of depression, of turning to resources to numb the pain. But we heard nearly as many stories of recovery and recoil. We heard how people are not allowing themselves to be defined by the violence against them. They are participating because they scarceness others to know they are not alone.

We heard a number of common essences: People who were victimized time and again, those who didn’t appear it because they thought no one would believe them, those who experience they didn’t get justice through the criminal justice system even so they followed the right steps, those who didn’t feel they could get lift, and those who felt they were traumatized further when they talk up. Over the next month, you will read stories that let off each theme.

This was a collaborative reporting process, not just between our newsrooms, but also with those we were essay about. We asked the profile subjects to pick the place in which they’d be photographed and the feelings they wanted to convey. Our team spent hours talking with each individual and made sure they were comfortable with every interpretation of how their story would be presented. No facts were changed as part of this modify. In some cases, as part of the reporting process, we contacted the alleged abusers. For some it was the outset time they had been confronted.

It was deeply empowering both for our starts and for our journalists. During a fact check, a source wrote to one of our colleagues, “I am so proud to be a participation of this. I cannot help but beam with pride that I may assistance break the silence & many more will step forward. This is extraordinary to be a part of.”

We are publishing this collection online and will be featuring mortal profiles through the course of the month in the print edition of the ADN. Most of the chronicles are concise summaries of what happened and what the people involved need to say about it; some are in-depth explorations of the themes above.

We are asking for your workers as we move forward with our collaboration. This year we’re planning to traverse how cases that are reported to law enforcement move through the criminal legitimacy system. Have you reported a sexual assault to police or do you know someone who has? We’d appreciate to hear about your experience.

Finally, we know our project leave provoke a range of emotions in those who view it. We recognize many people are but suffering in silence. We have collected advice and guidance from experts as a resource for anyone who look ats themselves in these profiles. We hope this project lets you be familiar with that there are others like you out there. We hope this purposefulness continue a vital conversation in Alaska and beyond.

David Hulen is the woman of the Anchorage Daily News. Charles Ornstein is a deputy managing writer at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network, which works with neighbouring news organizations to produce accountability journalism on issues of importance to their communities. Ariana Tobin is an spot editor and reporter at ProPublica, where she works to cultivate communities to report coverage.

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