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My Turn: Women need continued Alaska Legal Services

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2005

Alaska Legal Services Corp. is a private nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to victims of spouse abuse, partner abuse, child abuse and child sexual abuse. However, ALSC's ability to provide this valuable service to our community is being jeopardized. As reported in the Sept. 22 edition of the Anchorage Daily News, the federal funding for ALSC's rural domestic violence project has not been renewed. After today, ALSC will not be able to fund this project as they have been able to in the past.

The effect this will have on our local and state community is immense. In Juneau, an estimated 75 victims and their children each year will go without access to justice. They will be denied access to justice without a lawyer to help them secure a protective order, divorce, custody, child support or other relief needed to live free of abuse. Without this access to legal services, we risk having 75 Juneauites and their children stay, or die, in abusive situations each year.

Additionally, this funding cut will affect hundreds of victims of abuse throughout the state each year. In Alaska, an estimated 500 victims and their children each year will go without access to justice. Beyond the 75 victims and their children in Juneau, estimates from around the state include: 17 in Sitka, 22 in Southeast rural communities, 128 in Fairbanks, 25 in Barrow, 20 in rural interior communities, 55 in Nome, 61 in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Southcentral rural communities, 16 in Dillingham and the Bristol Bay region, and 80 Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim communities.

Some local communities, such as the city of Ketchikan, do provide ALSC with funding to help them provide legal representation to poor and elderly Alaskans. However, Juneau is not one of those communities. ALSC has been offering their valuable services to the people of Juneau without any local funding at all.

As ALSC's federal funding has been cut, now is the time for both state and local governments to do their part.

Alaska leads the country in the rate of domestic violence. Alaska leads the country in the rate of deaths due to domestic violence. In Juneau, the rate of forcible rape is three times the national average. As a community, we should be appalled by these statistics, and we should be supporting services such as ALSC.

If we consider that a woman in Alaska makes 66 cents for every dollar a man makes, Alaskan women in abusive situations often cannot afford private representation in legal matters. As a result, Alaska Legal Services Corporation has offered a vital resource to our community.

Please ask your local and state elected officials to help fund ALSC so that they can continue to offer this service that women in Juneau desperately need.

• Douglas resident Ann Ropp is an assistant professor of psychology and coordinator of the women's and gender studies program at University of Alaska Southeast. She is also chairwoman of the Juneau chapter of the National Organization for Women.



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