Road Trip | After graduating from Xavier, TePas completed a year as a volunteer in the Jesuit Volunteer Service and then moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, “sight unseen.”
Northbound | “I remember talking to my father and saying I want a placement that will feel like a job, a year where I can use my degree and really be working. A shelter in Fairbanks for domestic violence came up as one of the top places. I interviewed for that and hung up the phone and thought, ‘I think I’m moving to Alaska,’ and 20 minutes later they called back and offered me the job.”
The Mother Lode | “I had worked at a YMCA camp in Michigan and loved being outdoors all day and night. I grew up across from Lake Michigan and feel most at peace in the outdoors, and Alaska was moving to the mother lode.”
Real Trooper | She thrived at the Fairbanks shelter and stayed for three years then spent two years at graduate school in Chicago. She returned to Alaska to manage a federal grant providing training to Alaska State Troopers on how to manage domestic violence and sexual assault cases for the Department of Public Safety.
Promoted | After traveling the vast state for 11 years training troopers, she was encouraged to apply for a new position created by Gov. Sean Parnell. He wanted a coordinator for a new initiative to tackle the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault cases across the state. She applied and was hired in June.
Epidemic | “As he puts it, it’s worse than other states. We’re doing a survey and will have for the first time a concrete study on the rates of victimization. We have known that Alaska has led the Uniform Crime Report numbers for the last 20 years in figures for forcible rape and sexual violence. We just don’t know the true root cause.”
Nitty Gritty | TePas’ work involves digging into the reality of the crisis, deciphering why it happens, and implementing solutions. The four areas the initiative targets are: victims services, management and treatment of offenders, prevention and education, and law enforcement and prosecution.
Social Change | “We have to have a social norm change within the state that this behavior is not acceptable. We need to do more to speak out against it and teach our children well and raise them to be respectful of all diverse populations including women and children and minorities. It will involve working with men and boys. The changing of social norms is not an easy task. It takes time.”
No Fear | “We all have or should have a collective common goal which is a safe, healthy community for all Alaskans so they can live lives absent of fear.”
Alaska | When she’s not working, TePas and her husband like to enjoy the great outdoors. They are childless and dogless so are free to spend summer hours in their ocean boat in Prince William Sound fishing, hiking and spending nights under the stars. In the winter’s long darkness, they cross country ski throughout Anchorage. “There’s nothing more peaceful than skiing in the dark under the lights.”