This morning, the ACLU of Alaska, the ACLU's Racial Justice Program, and Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller & Monkman, LLP filed suit against the City of Nome, Alaska and the former law enforcement officials who, in a display of systemic bias against Alaska Native women, failed to investigate hundreds of sexual assaults reported to the Nome Police Department, including Clarice "Bun" Hardy's.
The ACLU is supporting Ms. Hardy in her fight to not only vindicate her own constitutional rights to equal protection of the law, but to fight for the rights of all Alaska Native people ignored and oppressed because of their race.
“Equality is a founding, cherished principal of our nation, but this country has never been equal. We have made progress, but we’re reminded often that we have a long way to go,” ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua Decker said. “Ms. Hardy chose to be a voice for herself, and for the countless other Alaska Native women whose suffering went ignored. This case is bigger than Bun; should the court rule in her favor, it will be ruling in favor of a more equal nation.”
Ms. Hardy was living in Nome in 2017, where she proudly served her community as a police dispatcher. In March of that year, she was raped in her home, and first turned to her coworker, Lt. Nicholas Harvey of the Nome Police Department, for justice.
Lt. Harvey instructed Ms. Hardy to submit a written report of the sexual assault, which Ms. Hardy provided, and included the names of those who’d seen video of her attack on Snapchat. For months, Lt. Harvey lied to Ms. Hardy and told her that her case was under investigation.
It wasn’t until an encounter with her attacker a year later that Ms. Hardy learned that the Nome Police Department never gave her report a case number, nor had they initiated an investigation. Then-police chief, John Papasodora, asked Ms. Hardy to relive the assault and rewrite a new detailed report. He told Ms. Hardy the case would be investigated by Alaska State Troopers (AST).
In May of 2018, Ms. Hardy asked for a case update from AST. They informed her they never received the report from Nome.
Alaska has a sexual assault rate four times the national average, and that figure is six times higher in Nome. Alaska Native people are disproportionately victims of sexual assault, making up nearly half (46%) of the victims in reported felony-level sex offense crimes across the state. This tragic statistic is reflected in the crisis in Nome, where more than half of the population is Alaska Native but powerful positions are held by white and non-Native individuals.
The complaint filed by the ACLU of Alaska, the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, and Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller & Monkman, LLP on Thursday, February 20, 2020, details a shocking history of neglect and indifference toward Alaska Native women. It is glaringly apparent that the court must rule decisively to create change that provides justice to Ms. Hardy, and to reduce future victimization of Alaska Native women at the hands of the law.