IT NORMALIZES STALKING, AND THAT’S NOT GOOD, SHE SAYS
The commissioner of Public Safety has asked the Anchorage Daily News to reconsider the name of one of its recently added features, called “The Stalker.” The column, written by Allison Hovanec, is meant to be a light-hearted poke a the parade of social media antics and foibles in Alaska, especially those involving public figures. Politicians particularly provide Hovanec with a trove of material.
DPS Commissioner Amanda Price, who is the first female Public Safety commissioner in Alaska, thinks the column needs a new name, however.
In a letter to ADN executive editor Dave Hulen, Price wrote that stalking in Alaska is a real problem, and those who are stalked are real victims. Making light of their situation is an editorial misjudgment, she believes, since one in three Alaska women have been stalked at some point in their lives.
Must Read Alaska obtained a copy of that letter. Here it is in its entirety, so readers can read the context in which the commissioner makes her point:
“Changing the culture of acceptance in Alaska means every business, government, department, community, neighborhood, and individual be accountable and responsible to taking action to support the change. Alaska needs to be a state in which we do not normalize behaviors such as domestic violence, including stalking.
“Recently, your publication printed the following (excerpt): “We all have a duty to be part of the solution within our own communities. That means not looking the other way when we see abusive behavior among our friends and relations. It means speaking up for what we know is right instead of staying quiet to avoid difficult conversations. It means raising our sons to know that violence in a relationship is never acceptable. Emotional abuse is never acceptable. Sex without consent is never acceptable. And it means making sure their friends and partners know it too.
“We won’t collectively choose respect until we’re willing to confront the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault — and their precursors — whenever and wherever we see them. That’s a fight we can’t afford to lose. If women in Alaska can’t feel safe in their homes and communities, how can we pretend we’re succeeding as a state in any capacity?”
“I applaud your editorial board for highlighting the need for change. At your encouragement, I am speaking up. The Anchorage Daily News prints a column called The Alaska Stalker. Stalking is defined in Alaska Statutes (AS 11.41.260 and AS 11.41.270) as “knowingly engage in a course of conduct that recklessly places another person in fear of death or physical injury, or in fear of the death or physical injury of a family member.” Stalking in the first degree is a felony in Alaska.
“The 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey tells us that one in three Alaskan women have been stalked in their lifetime. Stalking is a form of domestic violence. Abusers use stalking to control their victims, to place them in fear of death or physical injury. When the largest news publication in the state of Alaska participates in the normalization of a term that depicts damaging and traumatic, not to mention criminal, behavior directly related to intimate partner violence, how are your readers to feel safe?”
“Among lifetime victims of intimate partner violence or sexual violence, more than 66,800 Alaskan women were also victims of stalking. I cannot imagine how these Alaskan women might feel looking at their trusted local news source to see a “lighthearted” column titled The Alaska Stalker. Actions, such as normalizing and making light of terms that describe troubling, criminal behavior, serve to only reinforce that our state is not unified causing the much need societal shift.
“Certainly, I am not assuming or asserting that either your publication or the author of The Alaska Stalker intended any harm, but I am putting forward the optic that this portrays as we discuss the critical topic of changing societal norms.
“I’m sure many readers enjoy the column and its contents – I ask that your editorial board reconsider the name of the column, and if you indeed agree and look to change the name, perhaps make a statement to Alaska regarding why you may have done so. I believe it could be a powerful statement, reflecting that your publication is tuned in to the realities and intricacies of interpersonal violence and are willing to do your part.
“I thank you very much for your consideration, and for continuing to work to bring these topics to the forefront of Alaskans thoughts.”