What should the prison sentence be for a rapist who lures a 5-year-old boy into a secluded area and rapes him? In Alaska, that sex offender served three years in prison. We wish this was the exception, but it is all too common.
Number one in the nation for rapes and sexual abuse per capita. That is the title Alaska holds. We’ve carried that burden for many years now. Our State currently has 2.5 times the national average for sexual assault and about 4,300 registered sex offenders. However, sexual abuse reporting and arrest rates are extremely low. Therefore, we know the actual number of sex offenders in Alaska is significantly higher.
We introduced Senate Bill 218 to protect Alaskans. SB 218 dramatically increases sentences for the most horrific sexual felonies to a minimum sentence of 25 years. It also restructures and increases sentences for other sex crimes. SB 218 requires periodic polygraph testing for sex offenders on probation and implements needed changes in sex offender registering and reporting. The bill keeps sex offenders in prison longer and better protects the public once they are released. If passed in its current form, our sentencing will finally reflect our values. We will have zero tolerance for sex offenders. SB 218 provides much needed change in our state.
But there are critics. Some claim sentences in SB 218 are too harsh. We disagree. A sex offender raped a mentally ill woman for several hours; he used a broomstick, body parts, and caused extensive internal physical damage. He served three years. While on probation for raping and whipping a six-year-old boy with a belt, an offender had sex every day for a month with a 12-year-old girl. He will serve six years. One offender began sexually abusing his daughter when she was 7 years old. While interviewed for the crime he claimed it was his, “ right as a father to instruct my daughter in sex.” He served a total of two and a half years. These actual examples are not unusual cases; these are real, average cases. Is this justice? Are we doing everything we can to protect Alaska’s victims? Currently, we are not.
There are steps we can take in this state to reduce sexual abuse and assault. Longer sentences and mandatory polygraph testing for sex offenders on probation are proven to work. By ensuring the most dangerous sex offenders are kept away from our neighbors and children, sexual assault in Alaska will be reduced.
Alaska likes to boast we are the biggest state, with the biggest mountains and fish. To our great shame, we also have the biggest problem with sexual abuse. April is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness month, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is in April. Our hope is to pass SB 218 this month. Your support is critical. We encourage you to contact your legislators. Let them know you don’t want to live in the rape capital of the nation anymore.
Sen. Con Bunde and Sen. Gretchen Guess represent Anchorage in the Alaska Senate and are co-sponsors of SB 218.
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