Reports of felony sexual offenses increase across Alaska

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JUNEAU, Alaska Reports of felony sexual offenses are up nearly 20% across the state, but on the decline in the Southeast region, the Alaska Department of Public Safety said.

The department released its compilation of reported felony sexual offense numbers from 2018 last week, The Juneau Empire reported Sunday.

Reports of felony-level sex offenses increased 19.5% in 2018 compared to 2017.

More than 1,762 offenses were reported across Alaska in 2018, the department said.

Western Alaska reported the highest rate of felony-level sex offenses statewide, while Southeast Alaska reported the lowest rate.

The victims were 88% female and 95% of the suspects were male. More than 55% of the victims were minors.

Family members and acquaintances made up the largest portion of suspects at 93%, while 98% of suspects were known or related in cases involving victims under 11 years old.

Mandy Cole, executive director of the AWARE Inc., said prevention programs by the Juneau-based organization providing shelter and services to victims have been gaining traction, along with the work of other groups, but there is still much to be done.

“In general, reporting a sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing for the survivor,” Cole said.

“It’s a gamble whether that person will be held accountable. Criminal conviction rates for sexual offenses are nowhere near reporting rates,” Cole said. “You do a brave and scary thing telling a stranger about the worst moment of your life and it might not do anything.”