Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, February 26, 2015

I was more than a little surprised at the reaction to last week’s column citing the survey showing Alaska to be the most violent state in the union. The most amazing reaction came from the person who claimed it was a liberal survey meant to pave the way for taking our guns. Considering guns were not even mentioned in the piece, I’m not sure where that came from. Also, the survey was done by the FBI, not a group known for being a bastion of liberal thought.

Then there were the people who claimed that no survey probably ever existed since I didn’t quote extensively from it. They apparently are unable to find the referenced survey, so let me do it for them. According to the statistics published by the FBI, Alaska has a rate of 602.6 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 people. Some readers claimed we’re number one only because we have such a small population. They apparently feel that the number looms much larger than it would in a bigger population. But given it was based on a “per 100,000” basis, the statistic holds up. Chicago may have more murders but with their higher population, it works out to a lower number per 100,000. And if you can’t understand that math or those statistics, you should go back to your high school and demand a refund on your diploma.
Perhaps most disturbing were the people who simply denied that Alaska was a violent place because they felt safe here. I’m sure they do. So do I for the most part. And this is probably why another survey found us number one in residents feeling fulfilled and good about themselves. One does not preclude the other.  But we need to remember that these statistics on violence were not conjured out of thin air. They are based on crime statistics and are real. Theses crimes are happening to other Alaskans if not to you. And that should concern us because diminishing the quality of life for even one Alaskan diminishes it for us all. We can either do something about it before it reaches our homes or suffer the consequences.
Another survey (ADN 2/20/15) recently released and done in-state shows that over fifty percent of women in the Nome, Bristol Bay, Anchorage, Y-K Delta and Juneau census areas have suffered physical or sexual abuse or both at the hands of their intimate partner. This statistic simply backs up other surveys that consistently put Alaska at the top of the charts for domestic violence and sexual abuse. We seem to have grown so numb to this problem that the statistics don’t even faze us anymore. But think about this for a minute. In 2010, a survey was released that showed that 59 out of every 100 women in Alaska have experienced some level of violence from their intimate partner. All those people who object to Alaska’s violent reputation should probably get their heads out of the sand and look around because they know a woman who has experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
So what’s the answer to Alaska’s violence problem? It’s been studied to death. Every survey done shows us leading in all the worse statistics. Even more disheartening, we have maintained our position at the top or near the top of these statistics for decades. What has to change to make our state safer for everyone, including the most vulnerable? Given the responses to last week’s column, I’d say the first step might be convincing people these statistics are real and happening in a home very near to where they live. Because the statistical violence making us number one is less about drug deals gone bad and drunken driving that leads to massive injuries and death and more about a husband punching his wife in the privacy of their own home. It has more to do with one partner forcing himself on another partner and creating both pain, violence and fear around the very act that should bind them most intimately.
Alaska is a great state. This is why we should be so angry that these crimes are repeated over and over and over again in every neighborhood at every income level. We need to aspire to be as great as the state in which we live. And that means doing something about the violence so ubiquitous here. Step one is acknowledging it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

If you don’t know why, you don’t live in Alaska…

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:23 AM •
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

After watching the fashions at the Oscars I have to again say that bared breasts smashed down and taped into gowns that are slit to the naval will just never do it for me. Though, to be very honest, that style beats hell out of the stupid dresses that have one part that stops at the knee and then some gauzy material that goes to the floor covering it. That style always reminds me of dressing up as a child with my clothes underneath some old slip my mother let me play with. I looked stupid then and they look stupid now.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Monday, February 23, 2015
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Some people are smart enough to head to the cooler and sunnier climate of Florida. As for that handsome young man… he’s eligible, makes a good living and has a kind and gentle soul. Only women who truly appreciate nice men need apply… and I will be screening the applicants.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Sunday, February 22, 2015
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One of these pictures is the view from my sister’s house in New Jersey.
The other is the view from my house in Anchorage, Alaska.
Guess which one is which…
Hint… hers has a frozen bay in the background.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:46 AM •
Saturday, February 21, 2015

I’ve had my first robo call from a politician running for mayor here in Anchorage. Oh sweet Jesus… it seemed like such a short break from the last election cycle in the fall until today. And now it’s over. The peace has been shattered. The calm of my world is gone. I will not be answering my phone until after April.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Friday, February 20, 2015
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Please go to http://www.gofundme.com/BirdTLC and help us raise the money we need for our very own anesthesia machine to help these amazing creatures go back to flying free and wild. Every little bit helps. And honest, if you donate, I’ll send out a message worldwide to every bird I know to not crap on your car for at least a year!
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Thursday, February 19, 2015

Did you see the survey that was in the paper a few weeks ago?  It showed that Alaska was the most violent of the 50 states. Once again, we’re number one. It’s rather sad that we manage to come in second for annual Spam consumption but first for violence.

This survey made headlines in the paper immediately after its release. And almost as immediately, the news and discussion you’d think it would produce was muted into non-existence. Maybe Alaskans are just too tired of the discussion. Maybe the Super Bowl was more important. Maybe we’ve just come to accept violence as SOP on the Last Frontier. Want to live the free life? Want the wilderness experience? Well then, be prepared to die for it… and not from an avalanche or bear attack. Chances are someone will off you right in your home to save you the inconvenience of actually having to go outside in the cold for the experience.
On just one day in January, the Alaska section of this paper contained the following items: there was an arrest in one of the January Anchorage homicides; troopers were investigating a death in Unalakleet; a Kotzebue resident died in a house fire; a man wanted on an attempted murder charge was arrested; and a Fairbanks man was charged in a fatal rollover accident. On Valentine’s Day, a Wasilla man was found guilty of murder; another man was sentenced to 65 years ion jail for a fatal stabbing; a killer’s conviction was upheld; and a man pled guilty to setting another man on fire. Happy Valentine’s Day!
So how does the fact that we are the most dangerous state in America not warrant more than a one day headline? Where’s the outrage? Where’s the demand for action, any action, that will knock us off this unfortunately pedestal?  Sadly, the victims of the violence are usually homeless people, the mentally ill, women and children. And often the crime itself is happening beyond the vision of the majority of middle class Alaskans. Headlines on violent crime comes from the villages or sections of Anchorage that would be considered… well, let’s just say, not middle class. So long as it happens to ‘them” and “they” don’t live where we do, we don’t need to worry.
Far too many of us act as though we exist in a different world from the violence we see reported in the paper everyday. We think the walls of our homes protect us from what is happening far from them. But every time an Alaskan goes to the store or the mall or the movie, they are exposing themselves to potential violence. As for the people who routinely exist side by side with the violence because they have nowhere else to go, they know all too well how simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can end your life with a bang.
But above and beyond any personal encounters with the daily violence that has become far too routine in this state is the fact that as Alaskans we should be horrified that our state has earned such a dubious distinction. As Alaskans we should be mortified by the fact that we lead the nation in some of the worse statistics possible. Alaska has apparently risen to the top of all categories that start or end with the words abuse, assault and violence.
I came to Alaska over forty years ago from Brooklyn, NY. It was a time when New York City seemed on the verge of imploding from poverty and crime. It was a time when the federal government was basically extending a middle finger to the city in its hour of need. I thought coming to Alaska would put distance between the violence of the big city and me. Now, it feels as though New York is the safer place despite its size and diversity and Alaska has become the place to fear for your life.
We have to work to not get jaded from the almost monotonous repetition of these horrible statistics. We should never grow complacent and just accept that this is a violent place for some but not for all. We need to care that some Alaskans are not safe in their own homes, even if those homes are far from where we live. We need to fix what’s broken or the future will be very bleak for everyone.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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As much as I’m enjoying the photos from my childhood home of the bay across from my sister’s house actually iced over, this would be a lot more fun if Anchorage was actually having anything that even resembled a winter happening and if the Iditarod hadn’t been moved to Fairbanks because of lack of snow here.
This is all so wrong… and yet I laugh when I think that it’s so cold back east that even my sister won’t walk. I believe if you look in the Bible, that’s one of the signs of the Apocalypse.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:05 AM •
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It’s just wrong to be sitting in my office in the middle of February listening to the snow melt and drip off my roof and deck. Snow come back! All is forgiven! Boston doesn’t love you half as much as we do. So whatever we did to drive you away, we’re so, so sorry.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:23 AM •
Monday, February 16, 2015
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This is the view of the bay across from my sister’s house on Absecon Island… that’s the island Atlantic City is on. If you look closely, you can see the ice of the frozen bay in the distance. Maybe they could start the Iditarod from there.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Sunday, February 15, 2015
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Aunt Judy not only lets you ride her inside bike but she also lets you wear her “Watching Miss America” crown so you can practice for the day you ARE Miss America. The look on Bella’s face tells you there is pretty much nowhere else she’d rather be..
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Saturday, February 14, 2015

Given the state this man comes from, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by these remarks… or that he’s gotten elected despite having made remarks like this in the past. The bad old days before women starting the fight for equality haven’t really gone away. They just moved south.
http://www.salon.com/2015/02/13/gop_lawmaker_calls_women_a_lesser_cut_of_meat/

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:05 AM •
Friday, February 13, 2015

Poor Bubba. She’s having some kind of episodes that cause her to fall sideways, flail her legs, scream once and then go limp. Charming. Tomorrow we go to the vet to find out how to take her femoral pulse to see if this is indicative of incidents of suddenly dropping blood pressure. Sigh. It’s so hard when you know they’re hurting and there is just nothing you can do but hold them.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:23 AM •
Thursday, February 12, 2015

The photos on the front page of the paper last week were simply heartbreaking. Two mothers holding each other as they looked at pictures of daughters they will never again hold in their arms. A dad wiping tears from his eyes as he watched a slide show of the young lady who will always be his little girl but who is no longer around to grow into the amazing woman she held out promise to be. And a man in a prison jumpsuit with tears streaming down his face as he viewed the pictures of the two girls whose lives he took while driving drunk.  There were no winners in the courtroom that day. There were only people whose hearts were broken and whose lives were forever altered by one single decision made over two years ago, the decision to drive drunk.

I’m not sure what else society can say or do to get people to understand what a horror drunken driving is. I don’t know what else we can do to convince people that when in doubt, err on the side of caution and call a cab. I don’t know what other advice we can give people after they’ve tried to take the keys away and been met by belligerence and anger as their drunk friends insist they can drive.
When I was growing up, drunk driving was a legitimate excuse for the devastation left behind after causing an accident. You were not guilty because you were too incapacitated by drink to know what you were doing. It has taken decades to change that attitude. But every time we think we’re gaining ground, there’s another drunk driving tragedy and we wonder all over again how that driver could have possibly not gotten the message. Because we really don’t want to think that people could have gotten the message and just don’t care. We really don’t want to think that they are so cavalier about the potential for causing untold heartache and pain inherent in drunk driving that they do it anyway.
I think what angers me most is when a tragedy occurs and the drunken driver has a string of DUI convictions in his or her past. We wonder how these people are still on the street, still outside of a prison, still able to get into a car and drive drunk. Clearly taking their license away doesn’t stop them; such petty issues do not bother drunk drivers. Somewhere in their past they got the idea that driving was some sort of right that could not be taken from them. And so they drive despite laws, court dates and jail time. Until we find a way to keep drunk drivers off the road completely – aside from putting them in jail for life after a first offense – we all need to be aware that they are on the road and are not safe drivers.
As we enter the world of legalized pot here in Alaska, I hope the powers that be are able to ascertain a THC level that is as clear as the blood alcohol level we use for drunk driving. Because no one should be driving who is in anyway impaired, whether the impairment comes from prescription drugs, over the counter cold meds, pot, alcohol or anything else available in our modern society. While public transportation in Anchorage doesn’t make it easy to use the bus system for traveling to and from a party or bar, there are always taxis. And the argument that a taxi is expensive is just stupid. If you have enough money to go to a bar and drink, then put enough of that money aside for the taxi you’ll be needing.
As for the people pictured on the front page of the paper last week, their lives are forever altered. For the parents, the best they can hope is that the pain will ease as they remember the joy their daughters once brought them. For the drunk driver, his life is pretty much in ruins. The thirty odd years he will spend in jail will cover the majority of the years he could have been a productive member of society. For society at large, we will forever be deprived of the good that those girls might have provided in their adulthood.
There are no winners here, no matter how long the jail sentence. There is only loss.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:20 AM •

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