More than half of women living on the Kenai Peninsula have experienced partner or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to a new study.
But the “troubling” results are conservative estimates, said Andre Rosay, University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center director.
The UAA Justice Center and the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault released the results from their 2013 Alaska Victimization Survey for adult women in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. More than 20 people attended a presentation on the study on Thursday afternoon.
The numbers revealing 52 percent of Kenai Peninsula women have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both in their lifetime are conservative because of survey limitations. The women interviewed for the study had to have a landline or cell phone, speak English and live in a private residence. Women living in shelters or who were in hospitals or jail were excluded from the survey done between April and July.
“I think many of us would say we know that the rates are higher among the women that were excluded from the survey,” Rosay said.
Studies for other regions throughout the state have also been done. Results for Mat-Su were released Oct. 8, and results for Ketchikan will be released Tuesday. Other regions, including Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage, have been studied previously. A statewide study released in 2010 counted 59 percent of Alaskan women have experienced intimate partner or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
However, Rosay said the point of the studies isn’t to compare results from different areas. He said the results show each region has a problem with violence against women.
“It’s very high, unacceptable levels everywhere,” he said.
He said the results establish baselines for regions so changes can be made to policies and practices moving forward, and in the future numbers can be compared to determine whether improvements have been made.
Numbers for violence against Alaskan women were previously based on law enforcement, prosecution and shelter reports. Katie TePas, domestic violence/sexual assault initiatives response coordinator at the office of Gov. Sean Parnell, said many women don’t report to law enforcement or seek assistance.
“This survey is really unique because we’re measuring victimization versus how many people are seeking help,” she said. “So it really gives us a better picture of the depth (of the issue).”
Cheri Smith, executive director at the LeeShore Center said the center saw similar numbers of walk-ins and women and children who lived at the shelter this fiscal year compared to the previous year, but the number of crisis calls nearly doubled. She said that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it means victims are reaching out for help.
“I’m hoping that in five years we can have another survey because this is great data. … I think the big push now is to really do prevention,” Smith said.
One program the LeeShore Center has implemented to prevent violence against women is Green Dot Etc. training. The three-year bystander violence prevention initiative is in its first year. Interested people in the area can attend training to learn what to do if they see a potentially violent situation.
Rosay said five to seven years ago some people were not convinced violence against women was a problem in Alaska. Now telling people that more than 50 percent of Alaskan women are victimized is persuading them it is a problem.
The study provides the best possible estimates at this time, Rosay said. The numbers show the Kenai Peninsula Borough average. Rates among towns and areas within the borough cannot be compared and neither can age or race groups. The statistics are based on the 2010 census, which counted 19,910 women living on the Peninsula.
The survey does not measure how many times each woman was victimized, and it does not include all forms of partner and sexual violence.
Trained women interviewers, who determine the women were safe and comfortable when answering questions, conducted the on average 30-minute survey. If a change in the interviewee’s stress level was determined, the surveyor considered whether or not to continue questioning. Domestic violence resources were given during the interview.
“Sadly, we made (the women) relive some pretty horrendous experiences when we were talking to them. … We are absolutely committed to honoring (the women’s) voices, and making sure the survey results, even though they’re not perfect, that they are going to have significant impacts with policies and practice,” Rosay said.
Kenai Peninsula Borough victimization study results
Intimate partner violence
43 percent experienced intimate partner violence with
26.3 percent experiencing threats
41.6 percent experiencing physical violence
4 percent experienced intimate partner violence with
1.5 percent experiencing threats
3.5 percent experiencing physical violence
30.1 percent experienced sexual violence with
18.8 percent experiencing alcohol or drug involved sexual assault
22.8 percent experiencing forcible sexual assault
2.2 percent experienced sexual violence with
1.4 percent experiencing alcohol or drug involved sexual assault
1.4 percent experiencing forcible sexual assault
Summary of Past Year
5.5 percent experienced intimate partner, sexual violence or both
Summary of Lifetime
52 percent experienced intimate partner, sexual violence or both
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.