House lawmaker introduces bill changing definition of consent to better prosecute rape, sexual assault in Alaska

A white woman speaks into a microphone
Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, speaks during a House floor session, March 11, 2019. (Skip Gray/360 North)

A bill has been introduced in the Alaska legislature to change Alaska laws concerning sex abuse and rape. House Bill 5, introduced by Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage, would change the definition of consent to make it more possible to convict people accused of rape.

Statistics indicate that in 2015, more than 90% of Alaska’s reported felony-level sex offenses didn’t result in a conviction.

RELATED: Change the law to make prosecution for rape more possible in Nome and across Alaska, experts say

“Our current statute is broken,” said Tarr. “It’s outdated and incomplete. As a result, it means that we are not prosecuting sexual assault effectively in Alaska. It’s why only one in 10 sexual assaults in Alaska is prosecuted.”

Tarr’s bill would change the legal definition of consent so rape can be more effectively prosecuted, even when it does not include violence. It also adds a new provision called “rape by fraud.”

“Situations like, an individual lives with their boyfriend, and the brother gets in bed with the girlfriend, pretending to be the boyfriend. So we added a specific ‘rape by fraud’ provision,” Tarr said.

Time is quickly running out in the 2021 legislative session. House Bill 5 will likely not make it to the House floor this year, but will remain for consideration next year. Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Democratic Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky is a co-sponsor of the bill.