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Study paints stark portrait of Alaska domestic violence

October 01, 2010|by Christine Kim

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A new study reveals what some call shocking numbers about violence against women in Alaska. The victimization survey is the first in the state to include incidents that may not have been reported to law enforcement.

The State of Alaska and the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center randomly called 871 women throughout Alaska as part of the study. The respondents were limited to English-speaking adult women who live in a home with at least one phone landline or cell-phone line.

At a Thursday morning press conference, agencies answered a tough question: does Alaska have high rates of violence against women because of higher victimization rates, or because more cases are being reported? According to the study, the answer is both.

“We knew less than 20 percent of the sexual assaults are being reported, but it's nice to have this statewide information,” said Nancy Haag with Standing Togethe Against Rape.

The 2010 study estimates over half of adult women in Alaska have experienced threats, physical violence or both in their lifetime -- including more than 9 percent in the last year alone.

The survey also shows that an estimated 91,725 women -- more than 37 percent of all Alaskan women -- have experienced alcohol or drug-involved sexual assault, forcible sexual assault or both. In the past 12 months 10,000 women, more than 4 percent of all Alaskan women, have been sexually assaulted.

“I was shocked and saddened because there are real lives, real people in these numbers,” said Sandy Samaniego with the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

The numbers are grim, but many officials say they will guide prevention efforts. Law enforcement data doesn’t incorporate unreported sexual assaults or domestic violence, so Alaska State Troopers say this information will eliminate the guesswork.

“The numbers that we get when we come up with good numbers, it allows us to go to the public and the Legislature saying how big the problem is -- numbers help us, we're not afraid of the numbers,” said AST Director Col. Audie Holloway.

“Let's not condone violence with our silence,” Haag said.

The study’s results are a statewide average. National results on a victimization study will be available next spring, and agencies will be able to compare those numbers with Alaska’s.

Contact Christine Kim at ckim@ktuu.com

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