State making progress on backlogged rape kits
The governor says Alaska is much faster at processing backlogged sexual assault evidence.
Wednesday, Governor Bill Walker hired former Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Michael Burkmire as a sexual assault cold case investigator.
Burkmire, who oversaw the Valley's Child Abuse Unit, is now in charge the state's sexual assault evidence kits.
Last November, a statewide inventory showed there were about 3500 untested kits. About half of them were held by the Anchorage Police Department.
In January, Alaska changed how it collects the kits. They must all now be sent to the state crime lab for testing or storage, and if they're not tested, there must be an explanation in writing.
Burkmire was hired with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Governor's Office says the crime lab has already reduced the turnaround time for testing the kits by two thirds, from 249 days to 89 days.
Why some Alaskans are wearing jeans to work
Wednesday was Denim Day, part of sexual assault awareness month.
People around Anchorage, including the staff at KTVA, wore jeans to work to make a statement.
The movement dates back to the '90s when the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans. The justices felt she must have helped remove them, implying consent.
Ever since, men and women across the globe have worn jeans in April in solidarity.
The small staff at Alaska Executive Search participated for the first time this year.
"Our owner allows each employee to pick a charity that we're passionate about and then the whole office gets behind it and supports, so STAR just happened to be the charity that I picked," said Kyle Thacker, one of the company's employees.
Thacker says his passion stems from personal experience.
"I am a victim of sexual abuse myself, so it's just dear to my heart," Thacker explained. "I know all the heartache and the pain it caused myself and my family growing up, so just the more open I can be about it, and show other people that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and there is hope out there."
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls are sexually abused in the U.S. before the age of 18, and for boys, it's one in six.
"So, for me, it's just super important to remind people that this is a very common thing that happens," Thacker said. "Especially for men, I think it's harder just to come forward and say that they've been sexually abused just because of the stigma that might be attached to that."
On Wednesday, jeans across workplaces in Anchorage were a visual reminder to stand up for respect and hopefully stop the stigma.
Money raised at workplaces like Thacker's goes to support Standing Together Against Rape, or STAR.
STAR operates a 24-hour crisis line in Anchorage to assist anyone who experiences sexual abuse.
The hotline rings more than five times a day, about 2,000 times a year, according to Jennifer Brown, Director of Development at STAR.
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