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Alaska's rape rate is the highest in the country -- three times the national average.
tand outside Ruth's wooden home here in Alaska and you'll hear only an occasional sound: A plane buzzes overhead, a reminder that the only way in or out of this village at this time of year is by air.Snowmobile tracks in her driveway, fossilized by the cold, creak and pop under your feet like brittle Styrofoam. Next to Ruth's house is a shack: One room, wood stove, metal roof.And the wind: The constant as it rattles the tundra. Its plywood walls are so leaky that socks and towels are stuffed in the holes.In the shack lives Ruth's husband, Sheldon – love of her life, father to her many adopted children, a few of whom live with her next door.A clothesline, maybe 30 feet long, connects the homes.Ruth met Sheldon decades ago while ice fishing – was introduced by friends.
He shared her love for the outdoors, her passion for camping all summer, soaking in 24 hours of sunlight afforded by the severe tilt of the Earth up here. And she loves him now, she told me as we sat in her living room, wind chimes clanging outside on the porch. It's been harder lately -- since she learned what Sheldon was hiding.Ruth told me her world nearly collapsed that day in 2003 when the police said her husband, over a course of years, had been raping and molesting Alice, one of her adopted daughters.Those unthinkable acts happened in her house, without her knowledge, she said.But, amazingly, Ruth and Alice have opened their hearts again to Sheldon.The mother and daughter have consented to ongoing contact with him, allowing him to live next door, for a powerful and counterintuitive reason: They never want him to rape again.I spent more than two weeks in America's "Last Frontier" state in December trying to answer two questions: Why is Alaska the national epicenter for rape?