House lawmaker introduces bill changing definition of consent to better prosecute rape, sexual assault in Alaska

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, speaks during a House floor session, March 11, 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

A bill has been introduced in the Alaska legislature that would change Alaska laws concerning sex abuse and rape. House Bill 5, introduced by Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage, would change the definition of consent to make it easier to convict people accused of rape. Statistics indicate that in 2015, more than 90% of the reported felony-level sex offenses did not result in a conviction.

“Our current statute is broken,” said Tarr. “It’s outdated and incomplete. As a result, it means that we are not prosecuting sexual assault effectively in Alaska. It’s why only 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Alaska is prosecuted.”

Tarr’s bill would change the legal definition of consent in the law so that rape can be more effectively prosecuted, even when it does not include violence. It also adds a new provision called “rape by fraud.”

“Situations like, an individual lives with their boyfriend, and the brother gets in bed with the girlfriend, pretending to be the boyfriend. So we added a specific ‘rape by fraud’ provision,” Tarr said.

Time is quickly running out in the 2021 legislative session. House Bill 5 will likely not make it to the House floor this year, but will remain for consideration next year. Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky is a co-sponsor of the bill.

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