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Sexual Assault in Alaska

~ Carol Dixon

Sexual assault is an alarming and ongoing

problem throughout the United States. The

rate of sexual assault among Indigenous

women/girls is higher than it is among the

population in general. The rate of sexual

assault in Alaska is the highest in the nation,

and the highest rates are among Alaska's

Indigenous population.

According to a survey done by the CDC 21%

of women in the USA reported sexual assault

and/or rape sometime in their lifetime. 43%

of these women reported that the incident(s) first occurred between the ages of 11 and 17 years old, and 38% between the ages of 18 and 24. Numerical results stated that 20.8 million women/girls were victims before their 25th birthday.

The National Institute of Justice reported in 2020 that Alaska's rape incidents were twice that of the rest of the country. It's also believed that the majority of rapes/attempted rapes go unreported. Reasons for this high rate of sexual violence in Alaska are pretty obvious. The majority occur in rural areas and villages where there is either no law enforcement, or local officers who are poorly trained or not trained at all to proper response of sexual assault. There is also a very strong distrust in local law enforcement in rural areas, especially in crimes of sexual assault. There have even been many instances of local officers being the perpetrators of sexual assault in villages with only a few held accountable and convicted, and some local officers have restraining orders against them for domestic violence in their own homes. Alcohol also plays a role in the alarming rate of sexual assault/rape. Some villages are “dry” villages to try to prevent the increase of potential for violence caused by the influence of alcohol.

The dispropotionate rate of arrests and convictions for sexual assault in Alaska is very poor, especially for incidents occuring in rural areas. It's not surprising that there is a distrust in local and state law enforcement for sexual violence, especially for those living in rural areas or those coming from rural areas and now living in more populated areas. Native Alaskans in general feel a distrust in the state's abity and willingness to prioritize their safety and well being. This is not just the case in the rural areas.

There is also no 911 type of reporting available in rural areas. Isolation is an issue, not only in reporting, but in response. Even if an assault would be called in, it takes days to travel to some villages and the state has insufficient officers/troopers, which makes it even harder. I lived in the Alaskan bush for years and I'm not sure what the area covered by a single trooper is now, but back when I lived in the bush a trooper told me that the area for which he was responsible was 40,000 square miles.

But even in Alaska's populated areas/cities justice is often hard to come by for sexual assault/rape victims, especially for Indigenous women/girls. It's not felt that this crime is taken nearly as seriously as other crimes, especially for Native Alaskan women/girls. This is a pattern that has existed for a very long time, throughout Alaska's history (and the history of Indigenous women in the lower 48 as well). To many of these victims, sexual assault/rape appears to be sanctioned, and it's believed that there is no reason to report it because nothing will be done anyway.

Alaska needs to recognize and respond officially to the needs of sexual assault victims, both physically and emotionally. The state needs to recognize and address the lack of trust that centuries of neglect have created, which make the situation so much worse, particularly with Indigenous women/girls. The justice system itself also needs to make reforms and improvements that address the response and prosecution of these crimes. It needs to be a serious mission on the part of the state to deal with more supportive services, create new trust in the system so assaults/rapes will be reported, and actual justice being served by holding those accountable who commit these crimes in a timely manner. There needs to be a new climate created and supported by the state that sexual assault/rape is a serious crime and will not only not be tolerated, but that it will be prosecuted to the full extent. To that end, the governor and state legislature needs to dedicate resources to enable this to be the new norm. Attempts have been made, but they always seem half-hearted and more words than actions. There are shelters and non-profit support groups, etc. but most (if not all) of those are found in the cities and not in the rural areas at all. This crisis needs to be made a known priority of the whole state, with all law enforcement, both local and state) working together to presented a united front that says victims will receive support and justice. It will take time to change this climate of distrust, but it must be done. TV ads and general awareness promotional activities are good, but they don't provide the actual physical follow through and support needed. The state and local governments need to make it very clear with their actions that victims will be supported and will receive justice and that perpetrators will be prosecuted and held accountable.

Data from

~ Carol Dixon