Western Alaska has had the highest reported rate of felony level sex offenses in the state for the past three years, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
The recently released 2017 Felony Level Sex Offence Supplemental Report compiles law enforcement data from around Alaska. It aims to provide a clearer picture of sexual violence. This is the third year the state has published its findings.
The western region includes Bristol Bay and is comprised coastal areas from the Aleutian Islands to the Northwest Arctic Borough. The department’s data shows the rate of reported felony sex offenses in these areas is more than twice the statewide rate.
The most common victim age in Western Alaska was 13, two years younger than most common victim statewide. In 259 of the 321 offenses reported in the region, the victims were Alaska Native.
While the report presents statistics, it does not provide explanations for the patterns it describes.
“I think that the report exists to help folks sort of understand what the reality is on the ground for folks in many of these areas, but it doesn’t answer the questions of why their rates are what they are,” DPS communications director Jonathan Taylor explained. “This perhaps serves as a starting point to start conversations and investigation and research into why these rates are what they are in different areas of the state.”
Across Alaska, the department found that the number of incidents decreased by 4 percent over the last year. However, the number of victims increased by more than a quarter. More detailed reporting by law enforcement agencies could contribute to the apparent increase in victims. Taylor said agencies that in previous years only submitted the number of incidents reported may now be specifying how many victims were involved in each case.
Most incidents reported across the state occurred in a home and most did not involve a weapon. In more than 97 percent of cases the victim knew the suspect.
If you or a person you know is a victim of sexual violence, help is available. If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. In Bristol Bay, SAFE provides shelter and advocacy for victims of sexual and domestic violence. You can contact them at 907-842-2320 or 1-800-478-2316. To report child abuse, contact the Office of Children’s Services at 1-800-478-4444.