Alaska’s sexual assault rates are much higher than the national average. Friday, Governor Bill Walker signed a bill into law meant to help the victims and stop repeat offenders.

The new law requires untested sexual assault kits be reported yearly, reporting of sexual assault to be victim-centered and mandates that police academies will have 12 hours of sexual assault training on top of the already existing domestic violence training.

“There’s a national effort to end the backlog of untested rape kits,” Representative Geran Tarr said.

She was a sponsor of the bill.

“We know we have just under 3,500 untested rape kits,” Tarr said. “[We’ve] identified ways that our process is broken, that victims were not getting the respect that they should. We want to have a victim-centered approach.”

With the bill, victims still need to let evidence be collected within 72 hours, but they don’t have to make a decision right away about whether they want to get the police involved.

“That is a very difficult time for someone who has just been through that,” Tarr said.

Tarr said oftentimes people do want to report their sexual assault to police, but, “they just need some time after the assault, time to be with family, time to get support in place before they really want to move forward.

“What we want to do is make sure we have a process that doesn't re-victimize them by having them have to tell the story over and over or make that decision right away,” Tarr said. “Giving the option to make that decision later really ensure that they can get the support that they need. “

The reason many of the kits haven’t been tested is that they're related to cases where the victim and the perpetrator were known, but what was in question was consent, Tarr said.

“But now what we've learned is that that individual may be been involved in multiple crimes, and by testing that kit, they'll be linked to multiple crimes.”

“Right now, what we are trying to get a handle on is how many we have in the state. We want to work through the backlog and get all of those tested, and then we want to create a system where we know that each kit will be tested within a certain amount of time.”

Tarr said when kits were tested outside of Alaska, one in four has had a match with the DNA and one in four of those were serial rapists.

“I think this offers a new opportunity to look at who might be committing some of these crimes. And I think we’ll have safer communities once we can make sure that these kind of individuals aren’t out there to re-offend and hurt more people.”

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