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Report on domestic violence in Alaska shows rates of abuse remain ‘alarmingly high’

Published: May. 3, 2022 at 8:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission announced the release of its new report, which focuses on Alaska’s exceptionally high rates of domestic violence, and how the state responds to this type of violence and tries to prevent it in the future.

“Alaskans experience domestic violence at alarmingly high rates,” the report’s conclusion stated.

The commission performs the Alaska Victimization Survey every five years, asking respondents whether they have experienced sexual violence, violence from an intimate partner or both. The survey performed in 2020 found that nearly half of adult Alaska women — 48% — have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. That’s an increase from the rate in both the 2010 and 2015 surveys, according to the new report.

“Among those, Alaska Native people are disproportionately represented,” the report states.

According to the report, Alaskans have filed for around 8,000 protective orders annually “in recent years.” In fiscal year 2020, judges granted more than 2,400 long-term protective orders and more than 3,400 short-term orders.

Those dropped in fiscal year 2021, to 1,912 long-term protective orders granted along with 2,895 short-term orders. According to the report, that dip in granted orders “may reflect the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At any given time, around 1,000 to 1,500 orders are in effect according to the report. In an attempt to get these numbers down, the commission’s working group examined programs from around the United States, emphasizing evidence-based programming and practices for abusers and victims.

While Alaska’s rates of domestic violence remain high, there is also a response to domestic violence from Alaska’s state agencies, nonprofits and tribal organizations. Support services like victim advocates link victims and survivors to resources and guides them through court proceedings.

Batterer intervention programs are designed for those accused of domestic violence. These programs use individual service plan and assessments, and address participants’ substance use and mental health issues. In addition to providing accountability and treatment for people who commit domestic violence, the programs also help ensure the safety of victims and survivors and their children.

Recidivism is a term to describe repeat offenders. In Alaska, recidivism rates for those convicted of domestic violence crimes are higher than those of people who commit any other type of crime, according to the report, with a rate of 41% compared to a rate of around 20% for the other groups.

“It is common for people who’ve committed one crime to go through the criminal justice system and then to come back out and commit another crime, within a few years sometimes, just a year after they’re released from prison or after they’ve been convicted,” said Susanne DiPietro, executive director of the Alaska Judicial Council. “So that is something that the entire criminal justice system is very concerned about.”

In rural Alaska, the issue is exacerbated as many communities do not have a municipal police department or an Alaska State Trooper stationed within the community. Some communities are also off the road system, so a trooper may have to fly, snowmachine, or boat to a community to handle any public safety emergencies, making the problem of domestic violence magnified.

“In the smaller villages ... the resources just aren’t there for the victims, and often ... law enforcement, as its been well documented, is not as readily available,” DiPietro said. “So the law enforcement response in the smaller areas of rural Alaska may also be delayed compared to the urban areas or even the rural hubs.”

Domestic violence is a crime that is not often witnessed by anyone other than the people who are directly involved. Officials say for that reason, it is impossible to know the extent to which domestic violence affects Alaskans.

If you are facing threatened or actual domestic violence, please discreetly call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis in Anchorage at 907-272-0100.

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