Anchorage steps up fight vs. sexual assaults

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Leaders in Alaska's largest city plan to do more to fight one of its worst social ills: sexual assault.

For the first time, the city has included sexual assault in its official plan for dealing with violence between people, said Carrie Longoria, manager of Anchorage's SAFE City program.

Sexual assault is ''a very painful topic, an embarrassing topic, a topic that for too many generations has been swept under the rug,'' Mayor George Wuerch said Monday.

The new effort will draw on churches, analyze past assault cases and try to improve response to assaults involving someone from the military, where there might be some question of jurisdiction.

Alaska has a high rate of reported rape, leading the nation 19 of the past 26 years, according to the SAFE City program. In 2001, Alaska's rate was almost 79 rapes per 100,000 residents, the highest in the nation.

Anchorage had the fifth-highest rate of reported sexual assault in 2001 among 274 metropolitan areas. Reports of sexual assault, a broader term that includes more types of sex crimes, dropped in the late 1990s, but the numbers are creeping up, city figures show.

The roots of the new effort stretch to 2000, when a city report analyzed 10 years' worth of domestic violence data. The next year, it identified ways to deal with the problem, including a recommendation to start a special court for domestic violence.

The city reports progress on 24 of 47 initial recommendations. The new plan includes other steps.

Wuerch already has met with a small group of church leaders to encourage them to educate their members about domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and neglect.

The report also says the city will:

Work with men in the community to create a sexual assault awareness campaign.

Work out protocols for responding to sexual assault reports with Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Study reports of sexual assaults in Anchorage from 2001 and 2002 to learn more about the characteristics of victims, suspects and environmental factors. Information from the study will be used to create a more detailed campaign.

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