There are thousands of untested rape kits in Alaska, a backlog that spans decades.

The Alaska Department of Public Safety has been awarded both state and federal funding to address the issue, some of which will go toward research into the sexual assault reporting process statewide and a review of current policy. That research has one University of Alaska Anchorage professor launching a call to the public.

Ingrid Johnson works within UAA's Justice Center. She is working in partnership with DPS as the principal research investigator for the Alaska Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

Johnson, who has a doctorate in criminal justice, wants to hear from Alaskans who've been through the sexual assault reporting process — specifically, anyone over 18 who made a report between 2006 and 2016 to the Alaska State Troopers. 

"Maybe they've had a sexual assault kit collected, maybe they haven't," Johnson said. "And really, I want to know what happened when they reported, what they wanted to happen, whether they think justice was done in their case and what kinds of recommendations for improvements they have."

Standing Together Against Rape estimates that 59% of Alaska women have experienced either intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both in their lifetime. But the process for collecting evidence in those cases, using a sexual assault kit, can be cumbersome and even traumatic. In some cases, the process spans several hours. 

"It can be a very invasive process, it can be a very personal process and so some people, when they've just been violated, they don't want to go through that process," Johnson said.

By speaking with those who've been through the process, Johnson plans to formulate specific policy recommendations for DPS. She plans to interview at least 40 sexual assault survivors before preparing a final report for the department and the state's sexual assault kit initiative working group. 

"I'll be making recommendations directly to those agencies and hopefully providing a framework for how some of those recommendations can actually be put into action," Johnson said. 

Participants in Johnson's study can choose to be interviewed by phone or in person. Interviews will be kept confidential and those who make it through the initial screening process will receive a $45 Amazon or Visa gift card for their time. 

Johnson can be reached by email at idjohnson@alaska.edu or by phone at (907) 786-1126.

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