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What is Sexual Assault (SA)?

 Sexual Assault is legally defined as: any sexual contact, from unwanted touching over or under clothes to penetration, gained through physical force, threats of force, manipulation, trickery, or coercion. Consent cannot be given under any of those circumstances.


Sexual assault occurs any time a person is forced into a sexual act. However, force does not always include physical violence. Force can happen in different ways, such as: verbal threats, overpowering the person, using a weapon, drugging someone, abusing authority or taking advantage of someone who is incapacitiated from drugs or alcohol or is under anesthesia and cannot consent to sex. Likewise, someone with a cognitive or developmental disability who cannot make an informed decision about sex cannot give consent.


Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It crosses all societal lines and can affect anyone's life. It can be perpetrated by friends, acquaintances, family, co-workers, and intimate partners (including spouses and gay or lesbian couples). It can also happen between doctors and patients, students and teachers, clergy and parishioners, parents and their children, and it can happen between strangers. If you have been sexually assaulted, know that you are not alone. 


There is no right or wrong thing to do after being sexually assaulted. It is your choice what you want to do or not do following a sexual assault. You have the right to feel safe and to heal. At Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), there are advocates available 24/7, who can provide confidential support and referrals, who you can reach at 907-747-3370. Advocates can assist with safety planning. Counseling referrals are also available.


Following are your rights and options if you are sexually assaulted:

  • Ensure your own safety. 

  • Consider calling a trusted friend or family member. 

  • You can call the local DV/SA program in your community. SAFV is staffed with trained advocates 24/7 who can assist you at any time.

  • You have the right to go to the hospital.

  • You have the right to be screened for sexually transmitted infections, receive emergency contraception, and have a SART exam to gather forensic evidence.

  • You have the right to only receive medical attention, and not have police involvement if you choose. Alaska law does, however, require medical providers to report gunshot injuries to law enforcement. They are also mandated reporters, and therefore, required by law to report abuse involving children or vulnerable adults.

  • You have the right to only receive medical attention, and not have police involvement if you choose. Alaska law does, however, require medical providers to report stave or gunshot wound injuries to law enforcement. They are also mandated reporters, and therefore, required by law to report abuse involving children or vulnerable adults.

  • You have the right to pursue criminal charges and gather evidence through a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam. A SART team is made up of a police officer, trained nurse examiner, and victim’s advocate.

    • If you decide to press charges and get a SART exam, do not shower, brush teeth, change clothes, or anything else that could destroy evidence. It is best to conduct a SART exam within 96 hours of being assaulted.  However, other evidence, such as injuries, can still be documented.

    • If you choose ​to receive a SART exam, here's what you can expect: First, you are interviewed by the officer and medical provider. The officer then leaves the room, and the medical provider conducts a medical exam to gather forensic evidence. The victim advocate can stay with you the entire time if you choose.

  • You have the right to pursue a Sexual Assault Protective Order or a Domestic Violence Protective Order.

    • If you are sexually assaulted by a stranger or acquaintance, you are eligible for a Sexual Assault Protective Order.

    • If you are sexually assaulted by a household member, you are eligible for a domestic violence order. You can file for an emergency 72-hour order on nights and weekends, a 20-day order, or a long-term order. Sexual Assault long-term orders are six months, and Domestic Violence long-term orders are for one year.


* Please note: Protective orders are civil, not criminal matters. If you intend to pursue criminal charges, everything you say in a proective order hearing can be used in the criminal proceedings. If you would like assistance in discussing options, please contact an advocate at SAFV: 907-747-3370.


In order for someone to give consent to participating in sexual activitity of any kind, there are four requirements that must be present: 

VOLUNTEERED: Consent must be given freely. Consent cannot be coerced, manipulated, gained through force or threat, or based on fear or trickery.


ACTIVE: Consent must be present at every point and can be taken away at any point. Consent is required every time and for each sexual act. It must include verbal communication, not just body language -- there must be a present “yes,” not just the absence of a “no.”


AWARE: Based on knowing fully what’s going on and being able to make informed decisions. Not asleep, drunk, otherwise mentally impaired.


AGE (for Alaska law): In Alaska, the age of consent is 16. At that age, the state has determined anyone can legally consent to sexual activity (contact or penetration) with a person older than them, as long as that person is not in a position of authority (teacher, coach, youth group leader, anyone in uniform, etc). If the older person is in a position of authority, sexual activity is not legal until the younger person is 18. In Alaska, no sexual activity is legal below the age of 13. Between the ages of 13-15, a person can consent as long as the older partner is no more than 4 years older and does not occupy a position of authority. 


There are four levels of sexual abuse of a minor. They range from serious felonies to misdemeanors depending on whether there is penetration or not, the age of the victim, and the relationship of the victim to the offender. Any sexual assault of a minor (unwanted contact or penetration) must be reported to the Office of Children's Services. For more information on reporting the sexual assault of a minor, visit our REPORT ABUSE page.


If you have been sexually assaulted, it's important to know that nothing you have done has caused the assault. It is a frightening and disturbing event in someone's life. There are many fears, questions, and thoughts you may have because of the assault.


You may experience the immediate reactions of shock, denial, anger, anxiety, and disorientation. Your emotions may go from one extreme to the other. You may blame yourself, have stomachaches, or feel exhausted or fearful of being alone. Whatever you are feeling is okay. Everyone handles their emotions differently, you might mask or hide them or become expressive with crying, restlessness, and so forth. The process of resolving your feelings will vary with your age, personality, and available support system. To learn more about how sexual assault affects a person's neurobiology, check out this WEBINAR. 


Understanding the facts about sexual assault can help you cope with your resulting feelings and thoughts.  Speaking with a SAFV advocate can assist you with the immediate crisis or with the aftermath of a sexual assault. The advocates at SAFV are ready to help you whenever you need them, now or in the future.


  • 524 forcible rapes were reported in Alaska in 2005, representing almost 13% of all violent crimes

  • Child sexual assault in Alaska is almost six times the national average

  • The Alaska rape rate is 2.5 times the national average


Crisis Hotlines

  • SAFV: 1-800-478-6511 (Toll-free in Alaska)

  • RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)


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