"Rae Fancher spent a childhood in which physical, sexual and emotional abuses were rife. I read about this 23-year-old being the first Alaska Native female ever accepted into the Naval Academy with joy at the thought that some kids can escape their abusive past without putting a gun to their head or a noose around their neck.
But even as I read about Rae's choice to survive, I found myself thinking of the recent statistics about suicide in Alaska. We have the highest rate in the nation, twice the national average. The rate for youths in Alaska between 15 and 24 is three times the national average. Alaska Native males in that age range seem particularly vulnerable.
There are a lot of reasons suggested for this phenomenon. It is posited that since there is little economic life in our small villages, young men can see no future and so turn to drinking, drugs and despair. It is suggested that there is so little to do to stay occupied in our small villages that substance abuse and suicide become attractive alternatives.
All that might be true. But I think there is another reason that leads to a bullet in the head, a noose around the neck, or a drunken one-way trip on the tundra in the freezing cold of winter. That reason is the sexual abuse of boys by men. If you think it's hard for a girl to talk about being sexually abused by a relative, an elder or a village leader, imagine how much harder it is for a boy. Look how long it took Native men to speak about abuse by Catholic clergy when they were boys. Think how much more difficult it would be to admit abuse by someone still in the village, still with a grip on your life."
Get the Story:
Elise Patkotak: Boys' sex abuse a private horror
(The Anchorage Daily News 1/14)