The telephone survey was conducted between April and June of this year. Respondents were limited to English-speaking adult women, who live in the City and Borough of Juneau. Andre Rosay with the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center analyzed the data, and says despite those limitations, the survey had a relatively large sample size.
“Our original goal was, I think 550 respondents, and we were able to collect data from 600,” says Rosay.
While he thinks the result is a fairly conservative estimate of the amount of domestic violence and sexual assault in Juneau, Rosay says the survey was designed to get accurate information.
“We identify the survey as a survey of health and injury, and then we slowly get into more serious forms of victimization,” Rosay says. “So, we’ll begin with psychological aggression, then we’ll move on to coercive control, eventually we’ll talk about physical violence, and then towards the end of the interview, we ask about sexual violence.”
Rosay says past domestic violence and sexual assault surveys have been skewed by using legal definitions. This survey addressed specific behaviors.
“We didn’t ask respondents if they were a victim of an assault, instead we asked them, ‘Have your romantic or sexual partners kicked you? Have your romantic or sexual partners hit you with a fist or something hard?'” Rosay says.
The results were weighted to represent the number of women over the age of 18 in Juneau – about 11,700, according to the last Census. Based on those estimates more than 47 percent of women in the Capital City have experienced domestic violence and 35 percent have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Estimates for just the past year were shocking: 12 percent of women in Juneau were physically abused by a partner, and one percent were sexually assaulted or raped. Overall, Rosay says 55 percent of women in Juneau have been victims of either domestic abuse or sexual violence, or both.
“Our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, our mothers, daughters, people that we care about and people that we love,” says Rosay.
Regional surveys like the one in Juneau have been done in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Bristol Bay this year, patterned after a 2010 statewide survey. However, Rosay cautions against comparing data from any of the studies.
“Because you’re talking about different types of assaults that are committed against different types of people, and that are perpetrated by different types of offenders,” Rosay says. “But what I can tell you, is that in all of the regions that we have studied this year, we are finding very high, unacceptably high, rates of violence against adult women.”
Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Executive Director Lauree Morton says the surveys will provide a baseline for futures studies to be conducted every five years.
“To give some time for community strategies to go into effect,” Morton says.
In Juneau, one of those strategies has been developed by AWARE, a nonprofit domestic violence and sexual assault prevention center. It’s a plan called “Pathways to Prevent Violence.” AWARE Executive Director Saralyn Tabachnick says three of the four pathways are at least in part targeted at young children and teens.
“I think that’s critically important. To give healthy messages early on and to repeat them early on,” Tabachnick says.
The Juneau Police Department also has taken an active role in fighting crimes against women. Julia Erickson is JPD’s police crisis intervention specialist, a social worker position created two years ago to follow up with victims of domestic or sexual abuse.
“To make sure that they get the resources that they need to support them through the court process, through getting into safe shelter, getting a protective order, whatever needs to be done to ensure their safety, and to stop the re-victimization of women,” says Erickson.
The survey of Juneau women was paid for as part of a legislative appropriation to the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. It also received support from Governor Sean Parnell’s Choose Respect initiative.
AWARE’s Juneau Crisis Line: (907) 586-1090
AWARE’s Toll-free Crisis Line: 1-800-478-1090
JPD Police Crisis Intervention Specialist: (907) 586-0618
Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: (907) 465-4356