Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Sexual Assault Much More Pervasive Than It Appears
A survey complied by the UAA Justice Center and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault claims more than 50% of Anchorage women have been sexually or physically abused at some point in their lives.
An epidemic—That’s how state officials and UAA researchers describe sky-high domestic violence rates across Alaska.
According to the 2011 Victimization Survey –a study recently released by the UAA Justice Center and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault— more than 50 percent of women in Anchorage alone have experienced sexual abuse or domestic violence at some point in their lives.
"I think the first step, really, is to acknowledge that it truly is an epidemic that exists within our community,” said center researcher Dr. Andre Rosay. “I think we've done that today."
However, the numbers reported in the UAA study differ drastically from police statistics.
While the Anchorage Police Department responded to 82 instances of domestic violence-related cases of sexual assault in 2010, researchers estimate the number is closer to 1,500.
"Too often we rely on law enforcement statistics,” Rosay said. “As you all know, these law enforcement statistics only reflect offenses that were reported to law enforcement."
Rosay said a stigma associated with domestic violence prevents many women from reporting the crimes, and police agree.
"I think we probably have better reporting here than in other jurisdictions, but as you can see there's still a great gap between victimization and reporting,” said Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew.
Rosay said it’s a gap they’ve struggled with for years.
In the 2011 survey, researchers spoke with 710 Anchorage women by phone, asking them behavior-specific questions and avoiding legal terms like “sexual assault” and “domestic violence.”
"I hope that the results of the survey raise awareness, but I also hope they compel people to act,” Rosay said. “It’s not until we all take a part in preventing violence and responding to violence that we're going to be able to turn the curb on this epidemic."