Reducing Violence Against Women in Alaska

Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. (Fall 2009). "Reducing Violence Against Women in Alaska." Alaska Justice Forum 26(3): 5. Alaska has long been plagued by high rates of violence against women. Relative to the average U.S. rate of forcible rapes reported to law enforcement from 2003 to 2008, the average Alaska rate was 2.6 times higher, the average Anchorage rate was 2.9 times higher, and the average Fairbanks rate was 5.0 times higher. Alaska has the highest rate of forcible rape reported to law enforcement out of all U.S states. This article summarizes recent recommendations from the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee and from Governor Sean Parnell to reduce violence against women in Alaska.

Alaska has long been plagued by astonishingly high rates of violence against women. National statistics on forcible rapes reported to law enforcement provide one example. Relative to the average U.S. rate from 2003 to 2008, the average Alaska rate was 2.6 times higher, the average Anchorage rate was 2.9 times higher, and the average Fairbanks rate was 5.0 times higher. Alaska has the highest rate of forcible rape reported to law enforcement out of all U.S states. While changing these trends is a daunting task, several initiatives are currently being considered. In chronological order, they include recommendations from the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee and initiatives from Governor Sean Parnell.

Figure 1. Rates of Forcible Rape Reported to Law Enforcement in the U.S., Alaska, Anchorage, and Fairbanks, 1996–2008

Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee Recommendations to Reduce Sexual Assault in Alaska

Four major areas are outlined in the recommendations: (1) getting better data on sexual assault, (2) increasing the number of successful prosecutions, (3) addressing the alcohol and sexual assault nexus, and (4) reducing recidivism by known sex offenders.

A brief summary of the recommendations follows:

  • Improve data systems to track sexual assault cases statewide from report to conviction.
  • Fund a victimization study to determine the actual rates of both reported and unreported sexual assaults.
  • Increase the number of villages with local law enforcement through the Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program.
  • Consider grant funding for local hospitals to provide qualified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) and continue to support the cost of existing programs.
  • Review ways to increase the State Crime Lab’s ability to process DNA evidence in a timely way.
  • Continue to support, as a state, programs and policies to reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Address alcohol use specifically, and its potential negative impact on personal safety, in education programs about sexual assault awareness and prevention.
  • Continue to fund and expand Alaska sex offender management programs.
  • Expand Alaska’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force which locates offenders who are looking for victims using the internet.

Governor Sean Parnell’s Initiative to Reduce Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Three major areas are outlined in the initiative: (1) putting abusers behind bars, (2) helping victims heal, and (3) preventing abuse.

A brief summary of the recommendations follows:

  • Launch a public education campaign encouraging Alaska’s men to “Choose Respect.”
  • Increase law enforcement presence in every community that desires it, with new Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) and Alaska State Troopers.
  • Fund specialized domestic violence/sexual assault training across multiple disciplines.
  • Toughen penalties for sexual assault crimes, and toughen guidelines for prosecutors.
  • Strengthen sex offender registry requirements.
  • Expand prisoner re-entry programs to reduce recidivism among offenders.
  • Increase support for victims of abuse including funding for shelters and the availability of pro bono legal services.
  • Create a position within the Alaska Department of Law to coordinate state, federal, tribal, and non-profit domestic violence and sexual assault programs.
  • Work with youth, community leaders, private sector, and religious organizations to raise awareness and develop prevention strategies.

For additional information, see the UAA Justice Center’s violence against women webpage, the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee’s “Report and Recommendations: Reducing Sexual Assault in Alaska”, and Governor Sean Parnell’s “Choose Respect” Initiative.