The U.S. Flag and Alaska state flag fly on the roof of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Opinion: Alaska needs to clearly define consent

House Bill 5 would do that.

  • Tuesday, April 27, 2021 11:27pm
  • Opinion

By Katie Botz

I recently submitted testimony for House Bill 5, which aims to make Alaska safer for women and other targets of sexual violence by enabling our courts to remove perpetrators of rape and assault from our communities. According to experts, Alaska’s rate of sexual assault is the highest in the nation (nearly four times the national average!) in part because we do not clearly define “consent” in state law. House Bill 5 would change that.

I withdrew my testimony from the public record because I am deeply uncomfortable sharing the details of my story. I think this is the challenge that faces many survivors of sexual violence: We want to stop our attackers from harming others, but we fear the stigma of being a “victim.” Telling your story impacts your relationship with everyone you know. It changes your standing in your community.

It took me 12 years to “recover” from my rape. For five years, I cried myself to sleep every night and relived the experience in nightmares. I have a notebook full of goodbyes I wrote to family and friends, and when my father took me out on his boat, I would think carefully about how I could climb the bridge we always passed so I could jump to my death. I cannot tell you how many times I thought of suicide.

My rapist was discovered when my mother caught him in the act. He spent six years in prison for what he did to me. I suffer depression, lost opportunities and lost time, and the hurt and angry part of me wishes he had spent more time behind bars. To this day, I have had just one romantic relationship that I would consider healthy. I left the University of Alaska in Anchorage early and never graduated because I feared the physical abuse I believed I would suffer at the hand of another boyfriend. I just went away.

Unlike my experience, most perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are not caught in the act, and because current Alaska law makes it so difficult to prove that a survivor did not consent to sex, the perpetrators behind fewer than one in 10 offenses are convicted. The law intervened to remove my attacker from our community and prevent others from being harmed, but that outcome is the exception, not the rule.

This is why I support Alaska’s bill to define “consent” in state law, sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr. Developed over a period of two years by more than 100 survivors, advocates and legal experts, Alaska’s consent bill would enable us to remove offenders from our communities by giving courts clearer language for recognizing when an offender did not obtain another person’s consent for sexual activity. Because many sex crimes are committed by people who have a habit of assault, if we pass House Bill 5, Alaska’s rate of rape and sexual assault should fall as our rate of conviction rises, experts say. If we define consent clearly and affirmatively, the law will become a tool for teaching Alaskans about how important consent is to healthy relationships.

I have shared with you just the vaguest details of my story and even that causes me real discomfort. With voices both quiet and loud, Alaska’s survivors are crying out for their elected legislators to use their power to protect us from the ongoing tragedy of rape and sexual assault. Please join us by emailing a brief note of support for House Bill 5 to both your legislators and Rep. Tarr.

Katie Botz resides in Juneau.

More in Opinion

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Several past large fire seasons followed snowy winters or unusually rainy springs

Most Read