State announces plans to help sexual assault victims with legal representation

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Attorney General Kevin Clarkson says Alaska is struggling with a serious problem.

"We all know that the rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in our state are atrocious," he said in a press release from the Department of Law.

According to Standing Together Against Rape Alaska, 59 percent of adult women in Alaska have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both, in their lifetime and nearly 12 percent have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both, in the past year.

Attorney General Clarkson says he wants to do something about it. On Monday, Clarkson and the Department of Law announced plans to reinvigorate the state's Pro Bono Program with a focus on helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

His strategy not capital heavy; instead, it focuses on facilitating volunteering by attorneys.

"I think we can expand and improve it to maximize the ability of department attorneys to volunteer time helping victims," he said. "Through our criminal prosecutions, we are going after the perpetrators, but we need to help the survivors and work on prevention. We have many talented lawyers at our department who give back to our community. I want to make it easier for them to do so."

Clarkson says there are three major initiatives as part of the plan:

1. Once per quarter, Attorney General Clarkson will host a sexual assault and domestic violence clinic day where Alaska attorneys, including those in the Department of Law, can volunteer time to assist victims;

2. Once per month, Department of Law attorneys will be encouraged, but not required, to assist with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault's hotline where victims call in for help; and

3. Attorney General Clarkson will increase the number of hours that Department of Law attorneys can volunteer to do pro bono work for victims.

And he also says that he is exploring further statutory changes that may make it easier for state attorneys to volunteer their time.

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