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Elise Patkotak: Halt epidemic of horror against women

Elise Patkotak

In the course of the past two weeks a woman was beaten to death in front of her two young children and a homeless teenager was allegedly repeatedly raped in Eagle River. A study was released in that same period showing (surprise! surprise!) that Alaska women still earn learn than men for doing the same job but, I guess to balance the scales, are beaten and raped more than the national average. And if you use statistics only for Alaska Native women, you simply want to bury your head in your arms and sob because they are just that awful.

In response to all this, Senator Lesil McGuire has suggested that the Alaska Women's Commission be refunded and reconstituted to come up with suggestions for ways to deal with the horrific problems women face daily in this state. Meanwhile, during this same two-week period, Governor Parnell again sponsored marches to bring attention to this problem while also promoting legislation that would impose stiffer penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence.

While I applaud both the governor and senator for wrestling with a problem that seems almost intractable in our state, I find it more interesting that Congressman Don Young can suggest that perhaps one of the solutions is to drink alone if you know that you like to be violent when drunk and that remark generated nothing more than a tiny blip on the media screen. But when Don later called Hispanic workers a name so repulsive I will not repeat it here, that remark went viral and caused so many problems for him that he actually had to apologize. Those of us who have had the privilege of knowing Dandy Don for what seems like forever, know that apologizing is not exactly his strong suit, not something that he does easily or willingly.

It is clear that in this state at least, women are still struggling against a second-class citizenship status and far too many Native women are treated as even less than second-class. They are treated as nothing more than a punching bag to keep around because they are an easy target.

How much therapy do you think it will take for that 9 year old girl to grow up with a strong sense of self-worth and dignity after watching her dad stomp her mom to death and then tell her to leave her alone and let her die? Does anyone really think there is any therapy that will actually work? Or will this little girl grow up knowing her place in life is to be the rag on the floor to be walked over and kicked? And why - for the love of god, why - is there not an outrage growing across the state as each of these stories hits the headlines?

Maybe part of the problem is that this has become so commonplace it is almost background noise in our lives, something always there but something we're only ever partially aware of. Maybe it's because this problem has such deep roots and is, in so many ways, a generational problem that it seems almost unfixable. Most of tomorrow's abusers are in a home today watching a daily real life "how to" class on abuse. Or worse, they are young men being abused who figure when they get big enough, they'll get their revenge.

Equally, most of tomorrow's victims are growing up in a home watching the men in their family treat the women like they are less than dirt. Is it any wonder those girls will grow up thinking they deserves nothing more than regular weekend beatings?

A woman's commission will provide the state with nothing that the state and everyone involved in this epidemic doesn't already know. We need more police protection in villages. We need more lawyers, judges and courts. We need more social workers intervening in families before the children have learned the horrible lessons troubled families teach them. All these suggestions will be in the forefront of any recommendations because they will work. Unfortunately, we have never seen the legislative follow through that funds the suggestions so that an impact can actually be made.

Wouldn't it be something if our predominantly male legislature actually gave as much time and attention to this epidemic of horror as they do to passing probably unconstitutional legislation on gun control laws? Imagine.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow.


Elise Patkotak
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