After joint legislative effort, Alaska updates definition of consent for sexual assault cases

A woman at a lectern with two men standing behind her
Lisa Ellanna of Nome, an advocate for victims of sexual assault, speaks Thursday, July 28, 2022 at the state crime lab in Anchorage during the signing of House Bill 325. (Video screenshot)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a package of public safety-related bills into law Thursday, including a measure that updates Alaska’s definition of sexual assault.

The change had been sought for years by victims’ advocates and allows the state to prosecute someone for sexual assault, even if the victim freezes and doesn’t verbally say “no.” Pre-existing law said only that an assault took place without consent if someone was threatened by force.

Victim advocate Lisa Ellanna of Nome said the change was long overdue and “one of the most important steps the state of Alaska has taken” to protect victims.

Originally authored by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, the change was inserted into House Bill 325, by Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, on the last day of this year’s legislative session.

Other parts of HB 325, crafted by Rasmussen, expand the definition of domestic abuse to cover situations where an abuser involuntarily shares an explicit picture of a victim.

Rasmussen said the bill “really did become a team effort.”

“I think the stars aligned perfectly for this one, and I think we’ll have a better state moving forward because of it,” she said.

Thursday’s signing ceremony took place at the state crime lab in Anchorage, where Dunleavy also signed two other bills into law.

Senate Bill 7, from Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, requires the Alaska Department of Public Safety to publish policies and procedures related to police conduct.

The department already publishes these procedures, but Gray-Jackson said that putting the requirement into law ensures that the policies remain available, even with a change in administration.

House Bill 106, introduced by the governor’s office, fulfills a federal requirement that the state submit missing-person reports involving people under 21 to the National Crime Information Center no more than two hours after that person has been reported missing.

Pre-existing state law allowed 24 hours, and only required reporting for children under 18.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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