Survey finds violence against women widespread in Western Alaska region

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High rates of abuse against women have been recorded in Alaska. (iStock)
High rates of abuse against women have been recorded in Alaska. (iStock)
At least 51 percent of women in the Nome census area have experienced physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, sexual violence, or both, according to a new study.

The numbers mirror a grim pattern of extreme rates of violence against women statewide.

The results of the “Alaska Victimization Survey: Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence in the Nome Census Area,” authored by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center and the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, were released in Nome Feb. 11.

For more than five years, the researchers have been surveying women in regions around the state about their experiences of sexual violence and abuse in an effort to better track violence against women in Alaska.

Disturbing results

Such studies have consistently shown that the majority of Alaska women have been abused or sexually assaulted.

statewide survey released in 2010 found that out of every 100 adult women in the state, 59 had experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both.

Previous surveys by the same authors examining other Alaska regions have revealed similarly staggering rates, with a majority of women reporting at least one case of sexual violence or violence by an intimate partner, or both, in their lifetimes in areas that include Bristol Bay (52 percent)Anchorage (51 percent) the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (51 percent) and Juneau (55 percent).

The regional survey for Nome was conducted in the spring and summer of 2014.

Randomly selected adult women in the area were surveyed by phone, on both landlines and cellphones. Communities in the census area include Nome, Shishmaref, Wales, Diomede, Gambell, Savoonga, Stebbins, St. Michael, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Elim, Koyuk, Golovin, White Mountain, Brevig Mission, Teller and Port Clarence.

The researchers asked specific questions, like “have your romantic or sexual partners ever slapped you? Pushed or shoved you? Hit you with a fist or something hard? Kicked you? Hurt you by pulling your hair? Burned you on purpose? Beaten you?”

Only English-speaking women surveyed

Of the respondents, 40.3 percent said they’d been the victim of violence by an intimate partner sometime in their lives, with 8.6 percent saying it had happened in the past year. And 31 percent said they’d been sexually assaulted sometime in their lives, with 5.2 percent saying it had happened in the past year.

The study’s principal investigators were not available Wednesday to speak about the project, or any possible policy implications.

Researchers emphasized that the study methodology meant only English-speaking women who live in a residence were surveyed. The survey measures the number of victims, but not the number of times each woman experienced such abuse.

As high as the numbers are, researchers say they are likely a low estimate, owing to the limitations of the survey and the continuing stigma of reporting such abuse.

“These are conservative estimates,” the authors wrote in a summary.

Survey results for the North Slope Borough are also expected to be released this year.

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