U.S. News

Alaska sexual violence far worse than reported: study

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - For every case of rape reported to police in Alaska, the state that consistently posts the nation’s highest rate of sexual assault, another nine cases likely go unreported, according to a new study presented on Monday to the state legislature.

The study, conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center and cooperating researchers, found that 37 percent of surveyed Alaska women had been victims of sexual violence, and 4.3 percent within the last year.

The 871 women surveyed for the study reported “astonishingly high” rates of sexual violence, said Andrew Rosay, director of the university’s Justice Center.

“More than one out of every three experienced sexual violence at some point in their lifetime,” Rosay told state senators at a committee meeting held on Monday in Juneau.

The survey used extended telephone interviews of women around the state conducted last year, and was limited to English speakers with home telephones, Rosay said.

Nearly half of those surveyed said intimate partners had threatened them with violence or committed violence against them, according to results presented by Rosay and fellow researchers.

The survey found that 44.8 percent had been victims of actual violence at some time in their lives, and 8.6 percent had been victims of such violence in the past year.

State Senator Hollis French, who chairs the body’s judiciary committee and was one of the lawmakers who asked for the study, said it clarifies some of Alaska’s grim crime statistics.

“If you really stop and think about it and consider these numbers, it means there’s a level of violence and victimization in this state that makes you uncomfortable. It makes your skin crawl,” French, an Anchorage Democrat and former state prosecutor, said in an interview after the hearing.

French said he and other lawmakers hope to fund an expansion of the research to get more precise data, including information about rural areas where sexual violence is known to be frequent.

“As depressing as it is to get that information, you’re worse off for not having it,” he said.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton