OPINION: Alaska’s epidemic of violence against women won’t change until our men do

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It’s hard to describe what it feels like to relive the pain. It’s not the pain of being hit. After a while, abuse becomes another part of life, a pain you learn to live with. No, the pain of feeling alone and vulnerable is greater. You’re hurt, you cry, and you’re scared. And there is no one to protect you. Other women are also afraid. Even if you run to their house, chances are he will follow you there and they will become victims. As for the men, they tried to stop the first attack, but tomorrow is another day. The abuser goes hunting with other people in the village and they laugh together over their hot coffee. It’s as if the beating never happened.

It is a recurring scene in our state. Often – very often – it is repeated in isolated villages where no help is readily available. I know this from personal experience, from a short lived, young marriage that was never meant to be. But it was. My husband’s mother took me in when I was looking for shelter from her son. She was one of a special breed of Inupiaq women who stood up for their faith. And they believed that a woman should be safe in her marriage.

to read Latest article The paper brought back memories of the ongoing onslaught of physical/sexual violence against women in our village that I think will only fade with time. But having barbells shoved down your throat with no drunkenness in their eyes will likely wear off over time. Reading about strangulation marks on women’s necks brings it all back like yesterday. But it didn’t happen. It happened 40 years ago. So, if you want to know how long the damage from the abuse lasts, I’ve avoided any long-term contact since then.

I want to explain why men in this situation – of all colors, races and creeds – look the other way when they know a woman is being abused. Not only do they watch, but they still hunt, bowl, go out for drinks and have dinner with the guardian as if nothing is wrong. After all, if the woman doesn’t go to the police, she should be fine. right?

Most men I know now are horrified when a man abuses a woman. They say they will intervene if they see it happening. Which is fine as far as it goes. It doesn’t go far. Most abuse happens in the privacy of the home, so you can’t see it happening. But when these same people see the results, they simply go back. A woman with bruises on her neck, black eyes, and strangulation marks is uncomfortable to look at. But it is not comfortable to do anything.

And maybe some women in a big city can find security with the help of other women. But in a village, there is no security without the support of men in the city. Unless they state that the abuse of the abuser will make him ostracized and ostracized, if not thrown out of the village altogether, the man will continue to abuse him, and the woman will suffer until she dies.

I remember when the state had a lot of oil money. We have been able to start women’s shelters across the state. We saw it as a good first step – making women safe and then addressing the emotional/physical/mental health issues that are part of violent relationships. But we’ve been here almost 50 years, and the statistics haven’t really changed. There is no number of men willing to stand up and be counted. It turned around. Think about it. It takes two to tango.

Elise Patkotak He is an Alaska columnist and author. Her book “Coming to Town” is available at AlaskaBooksandCalenders.com and local bookstores.

The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide range of views. To submit a piece for consideration, email comment(at)adn.com. Submit entries of less than 200 words. letters@adn.com Or Click here to enter through any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and comments over here.

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