Letters to the Editor

Letter: Define consent

Alaska needs a definition of sexual consent in state law.

Sexual violence is a major issue in our state; we have the highest rates of sexual assault and rape in the nation, at more than 3.5 times the national average. Offenders are often not held accountable either, with just 9% of perpetrators of felony-­level sex offenses in Alaska facing any criminal conviction, despite sex crime convictions being key in reducing repeat offenses. Conviction rates are dismally low in part because it is almost impossible for prosecutors to prove that the offender was aware they acted without the victim’s consent and that the offender used direct or implied force.

Why is this so difficult? Our state statutes do not define what consent is, describing only what “without consent” may look like.Alaska can take a step in the right direction, though. House Bill 5 is currently in the Alaska Legislature, and it seeks to define sexual consent in our statutes, making it easier for justice to be served in our state. Alaska would finally have an affirmative definition of consent that can be used in court.

I implore our state legislators to not continue to sit passively by while our friends, relatives, and neighbors are victimized by sexual violence daily, and their perpetrators escape accountability. I ask Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins to schedule House Bill 5 for a hearing before the House State Affairs Committee immediately.

Fellow Alaskans, please contact your representatives and urge them to pass House Bill 5.

— Emily Cohen

Fairbanks

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