Amber Batts, photographed in her room at the Glenwood Center halfway house in Anchorage on Thursday, Nov. Batts pleaded guilty and was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015. I contacted her in jail and, over a few visits, she told me about her life and how she understood sex work in Alaska.(Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News) Amber Batts, photographed in her room at the Glenwood Center halfway house in Anchorage on Thursday, Nov. Batts pleaded guilty and was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015. Our conversations underscored what I heard from advocates and investigators: Many women involved in the sex trade come to it as victims of abuse and exploitation and, eventually, a few, like Amber, may become perpetrators of abuse or exploitation themselves.
In fact, many rapes involve people who know each other.
Alcohol is often involved, reducing the perpetator's inhibitions and the victim's ability to flee.
Andre Rosay, director of the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said surveys show that sexual violence is a much greater problem than victims' reports suggests, because not all victims report attacks.
A statewide phone survey conducted by the center in 2010 found that 37 percent of adult women in Alaska had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Dave Parker, spokesman for the Anchorage Police Department, said domestic violence and sexual assault rates are high in Anchorage and Alaska.
Fairbanks finished third overall, but the Golden Heart City has a monstrous lead in per-capita rapes, with more than double the rape rate of the other nine cities.
Forbes reports the equivalent of 191 rapes per 100,000 residents in what it termed a "hotbed for sexual violence." Forbes reviewed recent sexual assaults and violent crimes against women in those cities and others to reach its conclusions, relying on the FBI's 2010 Uniform Crime Report.The first session of each week focuses on participants learning new skills.The second session centers on applying these new skills in a community setting. Staff attend a 2-day facilitator workshop in person or using distance technology to learn how to deliver program content.(Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News) The first time Amber Batts traded sex for money, she said, she was 30. (Men, though, still account for the majority of sex-trafficking offenders.) When I pulled Batts' file, I had also been following the case of Troy Williams and Heidi Ross, accused in 2015 of torturing women and forcing them to have sex.She had two small children, her husband at the time was hurt at work, she said, and they needed money. He gave her the rundown: always get the money up front; don't do anything extra without a condom; don't do anything that doesn't feel safe; let somebody else know where you are. That's what I thought of as sex trafficking: force and a lack of consent. As I researched, though, I saw changes to the law in 2012 had struck the word "prostitution" from statutes and replaced it with "sex trafficking." Batts was charged with a crime that had formerly been called "promoting prostitution," but is now called second-degree sex trafficking.The numbers barely scratch the surface, because many assaults go unreported and because the FBI statistics at that time counted only forcible rape, not other attacks such as date rape or sexual crimes against children. Haag said she could speak only for Anchorage because that's the city she's familiar with.