Out of every 100 adult women you see walking around in Ketchikan, 33 have been raped, and 43 have been slapped, hit or worse by an intimate partner. When you combine those numbers, that means 50 of those 100 people we see every day has experienced one or both of those types of violence.
Those aren’t good numbers, but what’s really sad is that they are conservative estimates, and the real numbers likely are even worse.
About 650 Ketchikan women took the phone survey, and the lead researcher, Andre Rosay of the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, made a point of thanking them as he presented the findings.
“Sadly, we made too many of them re-live horrendous experiences, experiences that none of us should be subjected to, so that we could all understand the magnitude of the problem in this community,” he said.
Also traveling to Ketchikan for the presentation were Loree Morton of the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Katie TePas, who coordinates the governor’s domestic violence and sexual assault initiative.
Morton said there have been many different kinds of surveys over the years.
“You hear a lot of different numbers that come from maybe law enforcement reports, or maybe victim service providers, or maybe health and human services,” she said. But “this survey allows us to hear from the women themselves.”
The first survey was three years ago, and it was statewide. Morton said it confirmed Alaska’s high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. The results show close to 60 percent of women in Alaska has experienced one or the other.
After that survey came out, Morton said people wanted to know about their regions, in particular. So, organizers adapted the survey process for smaller sections of the state, and have been taking on about three per year.
With that, the communities “have an opportunity to know about the numbers in your region, and you can use that, hopefully in five years from now when another survey is done, to gauge whether or not the strategies in which you’re working, have made a difference,” Morton said.
The plan is to return to each region about five years after their initial survey, to see whether rates of violence have changed.
Rosay cautioned those in the audience that the survey has some limitations. For example, it indicates the number of women who have experienced violence, but not how many times. It also surveyed only adult, English-speaking women with access to a telephone, and who were not living in shelters or incarcerated.
Rosay said the results are weighted to consider those limitations.
“We know that the rates of victimization are much higher among the people we excluded from the survey,” he said. “So that’s one of the reasons why all of the estimates are very conservative.”
The survey’s results also are limited because many women who have experienced violence are not willing to talk about it, especially to a stranger on the phone.
Rosay stressed that while the results are not positive, he hopes Ketchikan officials will use the information and move forward with prevention strategies. Morton repeated that hope, and said there already are some proven programs in place, offered locally by Women in Safe Homes and Ketchikan Indian Community.
After the presentation, one of the audience members asked how Ketchikan compares to other regions that have been surveyed. Rosay said there’s no way to accurately make such a comparison, because of the limitations inherent to the survey.
“They’re all very, very close,” he said. “I think the safe conclusion is that the levels of violence are unacceptably high in every single region of Alaska. We have not yet found a region where we have low rates of violence.”
Rosay said the goal is to get the numbers down to zero, and while he believes that is a goal that can be accomplished, it likely won’t happen in his lifetime.
Similar surveys have been conducted already in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the North Star Borough, Juneau, Dillingham, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Sitka, Kodiak, the Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsua.
Regions that will be surveyed in the coming year are the North Slope, Northwest Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
For information about local violence prevention programs, visit the Women in Safe Homes website at www.wishak.org.