STAR: Alaska's rising rape rate is disheartening, but not surprising
Startling statistics in a newly released state and federal crime data report show rape is again on the rise in Alaska.
KTVA reported the findings on Monday:
Murder across Alaska fell from 62 to 47 in one year, but reported rapes rose just over 11%, according to reports by the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which use the same data.
The reports feature crime data reported from 32 law enforcement agencies, which represent 95.5% of Alaska's population, according to DPS.
According to the DPS analysis: Murder accounted for less than 1% of all violent crimes; rape registered slightly more than 18% while aggravated assault was responsible for more than 67% of those crimes.
The analysis also showed a violent crime occurred every hour last year; property crime took place every 21 minutes; a murder happened every seven days while a rape occurred every seven hours.
"You know, it was a little disheartening and at the same time it wasn’t terribly surprising, given the fact that our office visits within that same time period increased by 70%, so we are really seeing drastic increases in requests for our services," said Keeley Olson, Executive Director of Standing Together Against Rape.
STAR has the only statewide sexual assault crisis line in Alaska, which saw an increase of calls by 20% last year.
Olson said this year, the need seems to be even greater than in 2018. She's not sure if the numbers reflect a significant increase in rapes or if more victims are deciding to come forward.
"With the #MeToo movement and with all of the media attention, did we reach a tipping point perhaps where people felt more comfortable coming forward, that they felt like their expectation that they would be treated with respect and dignity and would be listened to and would be able to receive a lot of other services like counseling and advocacy services and not have to go through that process alone," she wondered. "Did that maybe help people come forward who otherwise wouldn't have maybe a few years prior?"
When asked what can be done to stop those committing sexual assaults, Olson called for more resources in Alaska's criminal justice system.
"I think offender accountability is really, critically important," she said. "We need our legal system and our court system to be much more responsive and move cases through the process at a much faster rate. When we have cases that are taking anywhere from three to five to six years to be prosecuted, sometimes with that offender out of custody, that sends a message that there is no accountability, so we really need to see more resources devoted towards that."
According to the report, 1,188 rapes were reported in 2018. 1,100 are considered completed offenses, while 88 are considered attempts.
The month of October saw the most, with 190 rapes.
"Since 2014, October has, on average, the highest number of rape offenses of any month, averaging 92 rapes per month," the report reads.
KTVA sent multiple requests to law enforcement to discuss the report's findings. An Alaska State Trooper spokesperson said a media availability is being planned for later in the week.
A spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department — which serves Alaska's largest city — said APD would not be participating in an interview regarding the newly released crime statistics and declined to offer a reason as to why not.
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