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Native & Tribal Communities In Alaska Need Our Help – Far Too Many Women Are Suffering In Silence – Due To Domestic Violence / Abuse

June 27, 2015


I am writing this article in the hope that perhaps we can as a society highlight the horrific level of Domestic Violence & Abuse that so many women, in theNative/Tribal communities of Alaska have to suffer every day of their lives. It is due to the huge level of respect that I have for those in these communities and my personal anger at the amount who are forced to suffer in silence, and their voices need to be heard. There are some wonderful organizations andindividuals in Alaska who are trying to do as much as possible to help stop this pandemic level of Domestic Abuse, but sadly those in power are simply not listening to the real needs, and therefor the abuse is continuing to escalate daily, with the unnecessary deaths and suffering continuing.

Native Alaskans make up 61% of reported Rape Victims, now if that alone doesn’t show that the current system and programs are failing, then what will. Yes part of the problem is the fact that a lot of these communities are in very remote area’s, but that shouldn’t enable the abuse or rape of anybody. To use this as the reason for the continued escalation is an excuse and is so typically political. There is no excuse, no justification and nothing that can excuse or explain the Rape of anybody in any community. It is so easy for those in power to set up some programs that they think will at least make them look as if they aredoing something, when in reality the programs are a waste of time and are in place to just help secure votes. To me that is just shameful. Domestic Violenceis not about choosing respect, it is about the control over the victim by the abuser, and if those in power in Alaska don’t know what causes or is Domestic Abuse, then they should educate themselves so as they can actually do something worthwhile that will work, as right now they are failing miserably.

For example we have the Choose Respect Campaign this has not improved the lives of any native or tribal victim of abuse, and it won’t either, for one very good simple reason. Those VPSO have no idea as to what abuse is.When you haveunarmed safety officers even hear of a potential or an actual case of Domestic Violence they know it can be lethal, so many don’t respond. But what infuriates me is the fact that this program was apparently initiated to help the rural communities, yet in training these men/women receive NO training in relation toDomestic Violence therefor they are Not Qualified to help or intervene in anyissues of abuse. They must have training in Child Abuse/ Elder/ Sexual / Physical/ Mental/ Emotional Abuse which are all then inter linked with Human Trafficking.

Alaska Village Public Safety Officers are not armed but are trained in “basic criminal law and arrest procedures, rural fire fighting, and emergency responder first aid. Under Alaska law, the Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) is not a recognized peace officer and has the same standing as a private citizen or aprivate security guard. How are they then any use to a victim of Domestic Abuse, they are useless to help, they are not required to make arrests in domestic violence cases like state law enforcement. Additionally, the VPSO might be reluctant to make an arrest in a domestic violence case, as domestic violence cases are very personal in nature, involving families and relationships. So this proves that the Campaign Choose Respect that constantly brags about installing more and more VPSO in rural area’s is a total waste of time, and just a smoke screen to make it look like those in power actually care. Thisignorance to the Tribal Communities needs to stop and their lives and pain need to be recognized

What needs to be done is local education and intervention with women in theserural communities, and not on a once a year event, but on a regular basis. If a woman is educated on what Domestic Abuse & Violence is then she is going to be able to protect herself and her children more. Nearly 75% of Alaskans either have experienced or know of someone who has suffered from Domestic Violence & or Sexual Assault. Native Alaskan women are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than all other Alaskan women. these women are oftencut off from the avenues to justice.

So where does this leave Native Alaskan victims of domestic violence who seek the protection of the law or to bring their abusers to justice? The short answer is that victims need more assistance and protection in Alaska Native villages. Not only are victim services immediately unavailable due to the lack of/distance fromshelters and counselors in bush Alaska, but also state courts and the protection of law enforcement are frequently inaccessible. If a victim’s abuser is non-Native, criminal prosecution is up to the State of Alaska. If a victim’s abuser is Native and the tribal court exercises concurrent criminal jurisdiction, tribal courts are limited to sentences of only one year in prison or a fine of $5000, this is not acceptable and this needs to change. As the pain and memories of abuse won’t fade in a year, sadly they can last a life time. If the consequences don’t match the crime then their is not deterent for the abuser, and that is a problem.

We know that 30% of children who live a life of abuse within the home will go on to be abusers themselves in life, this is 30% too many. We need to break the cycle of abuse, and in order to do that , we have to ensure that the proper procedures, programs and initiatives are put in place. It is sadly expected now by many that the Native Tribal women of Alaska will have many who will life of abuse, we have to change that mentality, and ensure that these women know that they don’t have to suffer in silence, they don’t have to live in fear and that we arehere for them. Many will say that it is not my business as I am not either American or Native, I am Irish,however Abuse is my business and it i actually your’s too.The Alaskan people once saved my life, so now I will do whatever I have to in order to save at least one of their people. We were all given mouths in life for a reason, we use them in general for no real use, so why not start to use your mouth as the voice for the voiceless Native Victims of abuse in Alaska. They deserve the right to live life and to not just exist in it as a statistic of abuse, due to ignorance of those in the state in power or to the lack of education and resources because of where they live. We can go to the Moon and into Outer Space, so why can’t we make it possible to help those in the rural areas of our community. We can but the question is Who Will?

I will gladly do whatever I can to help these people, if that means travelling to educate them and to secure the programs they need in place, then consider it done. But who is willing to also step up to the plate and say Enough is Enoughand the Native People of Alaska Lives Count not Just For Votes. I know of manyeasy options that will work so as to alleviate the level of Domestic Abuse and Violence in the state, and in particular in these area’s which are forgotten by so many. I wonder how many will care to know what they are, who can make themnot just a dream for the victims but their reality in life.



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