The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica spent two years investigating sexual violence in Alaska and why the situation isn’t getting better. The project, part of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, revealed systemic problems across Alaska — and potential solutions. The series was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for public service, along with many other national and regional honors.


A related collaborative series, "Unheard," was published in 2020, giving voice to survivors of sexual violence in Alaska. It was honored with a 2021 National Magazine Award for community journalism. 

By failing to collect those DNA samples, law enforcement has left Alaska’s DNA database with crucial gaps, allowing at least one serial rapist to go undetected.

First of two parts: In the state with the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation, testing the backlog of rape kits may not be enough. Many were from cases where the identity of the suspect was already known, or were opened only to find no usable DNA.

As scandals force Alaska politicians to resign, nowhere have the accusations been more severe than a remote rural district where male leaders are proving to be part of the very problems they’re supposed to be solving.

More than 30 years after telling a teacher that her stepfather was molesting her, Sherri Stewart is running out of time to understand why he remained free, and why she was sent back to endure more harm.

In an isolated and sparsely populated region of Alaska, there were five domestic violence homicides in 10 days. The pandemic has limited emergency services, and without shelters, many say, these deaths are no surprise.

In 2018, Jody Potts was the target of misconduct from then-Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. He resigned two days later, but the details of what happened have never been publicly told until now.


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

From early childhood, Tia Wakolee believed she was at fault for being repeatedly assaulted. Then she began to chronicle her abuse on index cards arranged on her kitchen table and decided to share her truth.

Ricki Dahlin turned to a life of crime and drug addiction after being sexually abused as a child. “We’re broken. We’re trying to fix ourselves.”

Everything Mary Savage did in the hours after the attack was dissected on the witness stand, an experience so upsetting she vomited. But years later, she finds comfort knowing her testimony led to his conviction.

In an era before rape kits, Sue Royston decided to fight for justice even though the police doubted her, the prosecution discouraged her, and those around her dismissed her story.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Marie Sakar tried to treat her trauma with alcohol until she learned that silence only serves to protect those who hurt her. Now, she’s back, sober and teaching in her hometown.

Nearly seven years ago, Cathleen stepped on a fishing boat expecting a week of hard work and good pay. Within hours of leaving shore, the captain began to touch her.

An outdoor installation at the Anchorage Museum will feature 27 sexual violence survivors who chose to tell their stories publicly. "Without the stories, there is silence," the museum's director says.

The principal for one of Alaska’s largest rural elementary schools, in a region with some of the highest sex-crime rates in the nation and a state with a history of failing to protect students, was allowed to remain on the job until the FBI got involved.

The series, reported in partnership with ProPublica, is a yearlong examination of the failures of the criminal-justice system in rural communities across Alaska.

State legislators will propose giving village public safety officers more flexibility and independence.

More than a third of Alaska communities have no local police of any kind. Criminals have been hired as cops in some remote villages. A federal emergency has been declared and millions of dollars are promised, but here’s what else experts recommend.

The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica found small Alaska cities have employed police whose criminal records should have prevented them from being hired. Now, the state board is working to ensure they meet basic hiring standards.

We spent a year investigating how Alaska’s sexual violence crisis is compounded by a lack of law enforcement. Now, we’re looking at the system and how it can be fixed.


Days before his death in 2005, Simeon Askoak told officials how a key Alaska rural policing program was broken. His village hasn’t had another permanent cop since.

Many remote Alaska villages have no law enforcement at all. But state troopers can be found in some wealthier, mainly non-Native suburbs, where growing communities have resisted paying for their own police departments.

A tiny Alaska village got a police officer. He’s never had to make an arrest. Meanwhile, larger communities with more crime have often been left behind as the state’s two-tiered policing crisis gets worse.

After reading that Savoonga officers don’t have bulletproof vests, guns or even Tasers, an Iowa officer reached out to help.

The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica have teamed up to listen. Do you work with victims, in government or law enforcement? We need to hear from you, too.

In one village, every cop has been convicted of domestic violence within the past decade, including the chief. Only one has received formal law enforcement training of any kind.

Anna Sattler’s rape kit sat untested for almost 20 years as Alaska’s backlog got worse. Now, an ex-Iditarod musher faces charges, and she’s speaking publicly about the attack for the first time.

The seven officers in Stebbins explain their criminal records and what it’s like to serve as a police officer there.

Long before city officials said they had no choice but to hire criminals as cops, justice was elusive in the Norton Sound village of Stebbins and neighboring St. Michael.

Special report: A first-of-its-kind investigation by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica found more than 70 Alaska communities — places with some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the U.S. — have no local police protection.

Something has changed in the way Alaskans talk about sexual assault. A yearlong partnership between the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica aims to highlight the stories of violence and survival in the Last Frontier.