Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation. These women and men did not choose to be violated, but they now choose to speak about what happened.
By Adriana Gallardo, Nadia Sussman and Agnes Chang, ProPublica, and Kyle Hopkins and Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News Photography by Anne Raup, Loren Holmes and Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News
June 1, 2020
This story was co-published with the Anchorage Daily News, a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.
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Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation, nearly four times the national average. About one third of women in Alaska have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Yet it is a secret so steeped into everyday life that to discuss it is to disrupt the norm.
These 29 women and men did not choose to be violated, but they now are choosing to speak about what happened to them.
Last year, the Anchorage Daily News partnered with ProPublica to investigate sexual violence in Alaska, and explore why the situation isn’t getting better. We continue that work this year.
The profiles below reflect the urgent and everyday wounds borne by people all over the state. Many have parents and grandparents who are also survivors. Many have been repeatedly abused, often by different perpetrators. Some have chosen careers at the front lines of sexual assault response.
Most of the people included here responded to our joint callout. The more than 300 responses we received inspired a collaborative approach to storytelling.
Some told us that giving words to what happened is a form of justice. Some said they chose to speak so others might feel less alone. They recalled moments of brutality and callousness, but also transformation, rebellion and renewal.
Each person spoke to their individual experience, but taken together, their words reflect common themes found throughout our reporting.
It was important that each person sharing their story had input on how to tell it. This project is not only about what has happened to them, but also who they are today. Each chose how to be publicly identified and how their experiences — related and unrelated to abuse — would be represented.
They worked with Daily News photographers to make portraits that are true to them. They chose to be photographed in meaningful locations, alongside the people they love or dressed to represent a source of strength. Read more about the portrait-making process here.
We understand that not everyone is ready to share their story. We’ve made space for you, too, here and in the pages of the newspaper. For those ready to share their story, you can do so here.
We welcome your thoughts and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about our reporting process, fact-checking and collaborative process in our methodology. If you’re looking for resources, we’ve put together this guide.
(Some of the quotations below have been condensed for clarity.)