Panelists openly discuss rape in Alaska, and its devastating aftermath

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The high number of sexual assaults in Alaska is a silent burden carried by many residents across the state. That's why a forum at the Anchorage Museum on Friday sought to take an unflinching look at the problem.

An onstage discussion among a panel and the audience was called "A Voice Against the Culture of Rape." It delved into the pain both visible and hidden that follows sexual assault.

“I remember as a survivor, it was hard for me to even say the words sexual abuse,” said Elsie Boudreau, one of the panelists at the forum.

Boudreau said she grew up a victim of a sexual assault from within the Catholic church in the rural village of St. Mary’s. It took decades before she gained the strength to come forward with her story.

Now she's using her past to bring change to Alaska’s rural communities with her nonprofit Arctic Winds, Healing Winds.

“It's an opportunity to share my story,” said Boudreau. “And maybe the words I speak, when I speak my truth… will reach somebody. That it will touch somebody.”

“The subject of rape is not discussed enough in public,” said editor in chief of the Alaska Quarterly Review Ronald Spatz.

AQR hosted the event, bringing together university experts, artists and rape survivors to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and discuss sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances, and the aftermath of rape.

“The idea of having a conversation and listening to people and bringing the issues out is tremendously important,” said Spatz. “One of the compelling reasons why we’re doing this is despite the statistics, this is a very hidden issue. Most women don’t report, and men don’t report sexual assaults. Most perpetrators don’t go to jail.”

Although the problem can’t be solved in just one meeting, Spatz said the concept of standing in an open forum is a step in the right direction

The discussion was recorded by AQR. The publication expects to disperse the video to rural parts of Alaska to extend the reach of the forum.

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