A conversation about consent in Alaska on deck Wednesday night

The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.
The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 2:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As the Alaska Legislature considers a bill that would make changes to the state’s laws concerning sexual abuse and assault, the community is invited to a conversation about it being held virtually Wednesday night.

House Bill 5 is a bill that was introduced in the Alaska Legislature that would make changes to Alaska’s laws concerning sexual abuse and and assault, with the goal of achieving justice for more sexual assault survivors. Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) introduced it at the beginning of last session.

Legislators worked on it for two years seeking input from hundreds of Alaskans. It aims to rewrite the more than 40-year-old consent law in Alaska. Tarr said HB 5 has three important sections: rewriting the definition of consent to be affirmative, addressing issues related to sex trafficking and predatory behavior of adults toward teenagers, and the final piece is rape kit reform, which would require by law that they’re tested within six months.

Tarr said the way consent law is written now creates a lot of loopholes where offenders can slip through the cracks.

“The law is written in a way that suggests that force has to be used, and there are circumstance where a person freezes,” she said. “We know part of a trauma response could be fight, flight or freeze. The law doesn’t reflect that and so there are many cases where they’re not able to prosecute as a result of this law being poorly written over 40 years ago.”

Standing Together Against Rape is an organization located in Anchorage that provides sexual trauma response and prevention. They’ve been working with Tarr to let her know what’s going on with survivors and how things need to change. Development Manager Jennifer Brown said, in terms of defining consent, it’s come a long way and now it’s time to make it into law.

“Sexual assault as we all know is a big problem in Alaska and this is a great way for people to tune in, find out what’s going on and learn what they can do to help us make these changes,” Brown said.

Wednesday night, the consent conversation continues with a chance to learn more about HB 5, participate in advocacy or just ask any questions you might have. It’s online from 6 to 7 p.m. with Keeley Olson, executive director of STAR, as the speaker.

As for what’s next, Tarr said the goal is to pass HB 5 in the next legislative session in 2022. She said there’s been some push back on the bill from some from members in the Legislature around sentencing terms for crimes.

Click here for the zoom link to join in on tonight’s conversation.

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