Ground zero is the Bethel region, where troopers investigated 17 percent of the cases, more than any other post in the state, TePas said.
"We have an epidemic," she said. "It's a statewide epidemic, but the epicenter, our data shows, is the Bethel region."
The early figures paint a disturbing picture of rapes and other sexual violence against adults and children in Western Alaska, where the population is largely Alaska Native and villages are often loose extensions of family.
In all the 989 cases, family members and friends sexually abuse or assault each other in more than 90 percent of the incidents, she said.
While the ADN chose to run a Tundra Drums piece which just gives statistics but no discussion of the context on today's first page, to my knowledge, they have not given any coverage to Alaska writer Tony Hopfinger's in depth Newsweek article mentioned last week by Alaskan Abroad on the multi-million dollar settlement of sexual abuse cases by the Roman Catholic Priests in the Yupik community of St. Michael. [January 23: They did run a good piece on the settlement in November by Lisa Demer.]
I can't give you a precise account of why the sexual abuse levels are so high in Western Alaska. There are probably multiple causes. Alaska Natives being inherently evil is NOT one of them. Tony's other article on Wales that I mentioned in two previous posts gives a lot of context into why a young man in that community might commit suicide. All the issues he raises in that article might help us understand what is happening in Western Alaska. Alcohol is clearly a factor. But the St. Michael's article also suggests that perhaps the church[es] helped cause some of the sexual abuse problems in these villages. In St. Michael's the abuse, according to the article, was extensive - one specific priest had about 60 victims. We know that people who were abused are more likely than others to become abusers, though, as this article from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service suggests, it is not inevitable and it is far more complex than a simple correlation.
It would be nice to see the ADN do a more careful job of reporting about rural Alaska. The Tundra Drums, according to the Alaska Newspapers, Inc website,
is an independent newspaper dedicated to being the definitive informational medium for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and is published weekly by Alaska Newspapers, Inc.Its audience is in rural Alaska. They have a better understanding of the context than people in Anchorage and other places in Alaska where the ADN is read. You can't just take such an article and drop it onto the front page without some background.
It is important that the problems of rural Alaska be covered by the ADN, but raw data without context may do more harm to urban-rural understanding than no coverage at all.