Current statute fails to achieve justice for Alaskans who have been sexually assaulted; bill also includes final piece of rape kit reform, requiring kits to be tested within 6 months
ANCHORAGE — Rep. Geran Tarr pre-filed House Bill 5, legislation that includes a suite of improvements to Alaska’s laws governing the definition of sexual consent – including rape by fraud and sexual abuse of a minor – and the pace at which sexual assault examination kits must be processed.
The bill would rewrite the state’s definition of consent to affirm that consent cannot be given by a person who is incompetent or unconscious, extracted by threat or force, or by fraud or deception, or assumed on the basis of a past or present romantic relationship, including marriage.
“Alaska’s decades-old definition of consent routinely denies justice to victims of sexual assault,” said Representative Tarr. “This is wrong. The improvements in this bill are informed by years of study of how legal systems fail victims by being blind to rape in certain circumstances. I thank the hundreds of Alaskans who participated in our public forums and shared their experiences and ideas of how we should improve our laws. With this bill, Alaska opens its eyes and moves closer to justice.”
Furthermore, the bill seeks to protect teenagers who are victims of predatory behavior by adults more than 10 years older than them. It takes into consideration a significant difference in age between an offender and a minor to determine whether a sexual assault occurred, and to distinguish between assault in the first and second degree.
The bill also requires sexual assault examination kits (also known as “rape kits”) to be tested within six months. This provision was included in a bill that had unanimous, bipartisan support at the end of the last legislative session, but was delayed and did not pass.
“We worked closely with professionals at our state crime lab to step up the pace at which rape kits are processed, knowing that each step of the way we would need additional staff and training time,” Representative Tarr added. “The lab is now ready to make the next step toward processing kits within six months of receiving them, with the ultimate goal of processing within 60 days. This is the last provision of our multi-year Rape Kit Reform Initiative, which accomplished multiple objectives, including multiple pieces of legislation and funding to process the backlog of rape kits. Tragically, we can’t change the past. But we can fulfill our responsibility to seek justice for all Alaskans with the timely processing of rape kits.”
A public forum to review this draft legislation will take place on January 12.