By Xochitl Haaland, Alaska Rep. and Co-chair of the Congressional Native Women Caucus.
While the nation was riveted by police pursuit of Derrick Patterson, he was responsible for a crime of a far greater magnitude. The bloody left handprints found in the forest leading to his body after his arrest are an image of carnage not seen in years. He was arrested for brutally murdering his first wife, Shanae Patterson, and her 2-year-old daughter, Jenson Hartman, in 2012. The horrifying murder of two women and her child was both an example of extreme domestic violence and the psychological disconnect between native American women and Native fathers. What happened that night was neither random nor isolated.
Rape and domestic violence against native women are a reality in Alaska’s rural community. In coastal villages and tiny rural towns, alcohol and despair are deeply entrenched and a major driver of domestic violence. In urban Alaska, domestic violence is also on the rise, and the chronic poverty and lack of mental health services are contributing factors.
When fathers disrespect their daughters and fathers seem to forget their responsibility to take care of their families, we need to stop and call out this injustice, and as our elected leaders, we need to stop using our vote to protect and support responsible Americans, like Derrick Patterson.