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COVID-19 remains an impact for domestic violence victims

Retired Alaska State Trooper Col. James Cockrell addresses the public during a press briefing...
Retired Alaska State Trooper Col. James Cockrell addresses the public during a press briefing hosted by Gov. Michael Dunleavey in Kenai on Tuesday morning.(Jill Burke)
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 4:52 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, shedding light on the problems Alaska is seeing.

“In Alaska we have an extreme high rate of domestic violence. We lead the nation in the number of domestic violence per 100,000,” says Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell.

According to a survey that came out Wednesday morning, 48% of Alaska women 18 years and older have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime and the study looked into how COVID-19 has played a role.

“Research this year was also looking at the impact of COVID and particularly related to those who lost a job or had a financial loss because of the COVID pandemic and those rates of abuse significantly increased,” says Executive Director on the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault L. Diane Casto.

Just within the last year, more than 18,000 adult women in Alaska experienced intimate partner violence. At the same time, the 24 victim service programs in the state saw a significant increase in crisis calls, according to Casto, but overall reported cases of domestic violence decreased with no clear reason why.

“What we don’t know is exactly how much of an increase there was in abuse because they also were not reporting as much, or reaching out to services as much because people didn’t want to go to some of the shelters because of congregate living and they thought wow that’s not going to be safe,” says Casto.

Casto does assure the shelters are safe and also says we won’t know the true impacts that COVID-19 had on domestic violence until it is over, but the impacts don’t just stop at women.

“We’re seeing some of that in the sexual assaults especially with our children because now they’re going back to school and stuff and there’s mandatory reporting and so law enforcement, OCS is getting more reports and we’re going to see what we say is substantial increase in children sexual assaults over the next year or so because of them being locked in the home and now they’re out and we’re finding out about them,” Cockrell said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, here are some resources:

  • For immediate response call 911
  • Alaska 2-1-1 for assistance, referrals, and resources
  • Alaska’s CARELINE at 877-266-4357
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 800-799-7233, Text LOVEIS to 22522, or use the online chat at www.thehotline.org
  • Resources across Alaska: Alaska’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and other statewide services are available on this Alaska Department of Public Safety web page.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated with additional information.

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