Why So Many Rapes in Anchorage, Alaska?

I was looking at this table of List of U.S. Cities by Crime Rape (as it was referenced in a thread here):

When you sort on the column for rape Anchorage is almost 50% higher than the 2nd place site (Anchorage at 171.6 per 100,000, Cleveland at 124.0–and at the bottom Irvine, California at 10.5)

So what would explain this about Anchorage? (Actually there are several surprises in the table: Minneapolis is at 98, while New York is only 14?)

Or perhaps Anchorage and Minneapolis don’t have more rapes–but victims are more likely to report them because the criminal justice system there takes rape complaints seriously?

Super interesting (and sad). Thanks for sharing :frowning:

Some news stories suggest a mixture of:

  • Alaskan Native women are 10x more likely to be raped than other women
  • Rural areas have fewer police services and take longer to respond and investigate rapes
  • Lack of victim support services
  • Economies dominated by conservative male industries like oil drilling, fishing, and the military
  • Prevalence of alcoholism, drug abuse, and date rape drugs

(by no means a thorough analysis, just a starting point)

It’s probably worth pointing out the law of large numbers (though Reply’s answer should be noted as well).

With a large enough population size, things that you would expect to happen at a certain rate will basically happen at that rate. But, with a smaller population size, you’re going to see samples that are wildly higher and lower than what you expect.

Brain cancer, for example, is notably more prevalent in s few states that have a small population size. It’s also notably less prevalent in a few states with a small population. Whereas, heavily populated states are all in the middle.

This is purely just a matter of how randomness works and should be taken into account before assuming that there’s a meaningful correlation between that locality and whatever subject you’re looking at.

But so, from a technical standpoint, you would want to see if the pattern hold across a number of towns and cities in Alaska to see if it’s consistent or just the impact of one or two prolific, horrors of humanity. We would expect half the towns to have a lower rate of rape, balancing out an equal half with a higher than average rate.

That’s probably not the case, as Reply’s information would tell us. Though it is possible that Anchorage could be an outlier even considering the socioeconomic factors. It could be a general problem in the area, exacerbated by one or two prolific horrors of humanity, roaming the streets.

There’s an hoary old joke in the mid south about if a girl s a virgin it means she could fight off/out run her relatives …Well from what I’ve read a ND been told it’s the literal truth… Boys too

There was a big conference a couple of years ago on it a lot of it is booze related but just the fact that iwas talked about in public was treated as a big step

But it’s all of Alaska that has a problem,…

ND ???

a ND = and

Northern, rural, high Native American population, gender imbalance, difficulty of prosecutions, large number of itinerant workers, not enough law enforcement, more masculine infused culture, long nights with lots of alcohol abuse, communities where rape has become culturally expected due to inherent power imbalances. Basically, it’s no one thing, but rather a perfect storm.

I was reading that in some of the more isolated communities, you have a situation where the men are required for survival. They’re bringing home all of the food and furs to trade for necessities and communities become hyper-dependent on them. They’ll get drunk, rape someone and the women don’t say anything because they know that they can’t live if the offender goes to prison. They just see it as part of the price they pay for survival. Once a few get away with it, it spreads and becomes cultural. Women in these communities just exist under the assumption that sooner or later they are going to be raped. Most of the time things are fine, every once in a while, the men get drunk and someone ends up raped and everyone pretends it didn’t happen.

A single person committing a crime spree will skew the statistics more in an area with a small population than in an area with a large population. A serial killer who commits six murders in a year in New York City is not going to change that areas murder statistics very much, but the serial killer who was operating in Texarkana in 1946 probably really affected that areas murder statistics.

I’m not saying there was a serial rapist in Anchorage the year for which the statistics were drawn, but some social or economic change that affected rapes in a demographic would affect the total statistic more in a less populated area than a heavily populated area. That’s one of the reasons you see this effect.

I doubt it’s just a statistical glitch. Anchorage has a population of 300,000 , which means more than 500 rapes per year. Shot noise is approximately sqrt(n), which means that one would expect the “inherent number” of rapes in Anchorage to be something like 500 ± 22 . That still puts it a heck of a lot of standard deviations above Cleveland.

I lived in Anchoragen for years, it’s hardly some backwater rural town with no police presence. It’s the biggest city in the state, roughly the size of Pittsburgh. I don’t know why Native Women are 10x more likely to be raped (not sure where that number comes from), but they are only around 4% of Anchorage’s population.

I will say that it is more “isolated” than your typical town, in that once you leave city limits it’s basically small shrubs for as far as the eye can see for quite some ways before you hit another populated area. And, obviously a lot of the population are transient (it’s a tough place to live for a long time, especially if you’re a sun lover).

The statistics that the OP linked were from Wikipedia which got it from the 2015 FBI Crime report which I believe uses Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Anchorage for their purposes includes all of Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Crime in general has escalated in recent years in Anchorage. Incidence of rape for Native women has always been high, especially in rural Alaska, but now with reduced police levels, all crime levels have spiked. It’s actually becoming dangerous to be out at night alone in the city, according to my relatives still living there. It’s sure not the town I grew up in anymore, but then that’s been true since the oil boom.

Well, that’s got to be tough, since “night” starts at 2pm for a good chunk of the year. :smiley: Granted, I haven’t lived in Anchorage in decades, but I hardly felt like it was some podunk town even back in the early 80’s. I honestly don’t know why rape would be a problem there. Increased overall crime I can see, the opioid epidemic hit a small (true podunk) town I lived less than a decade ago. I can easily see that happening in Anchorage, where, even if there was a ton of stuff to do, a lot of people end up locked in their houses due to how cold it gets in the winter months. Boredom and depression can certainly contribute to drug usage, and maybe there is a correlation there.

If I were to hazard to guess, I think there is a possibility that Anchorage might attract a statistically higher amount of undesirables looking to start over and might have a harder time finding employment elsewhere.

This crossed my mind too, but if you crunch the numbers, 174 per 100K in a city of size 300K gives about 522. The standard error of this is about 22.8, so the 95% confidence interval is 174 +/- 15 per 100K. So Anchorage is still a huge outlier.

Another example of an isolated community with a culture that tacitly condones rape (in this case, rape of what would elsewhere be considered underage women) is Pitcairn Island. This is a very small community (47 people) but it’s clear that this is not a statistical result, it’s a long standing part of the culture, apparently completely accepted by the men and most of the women.

Is it possibly how Alaska or Anchorage itself defines rape? Sometimes what is called “sexual assault” in one jurisdiction is called “rape in the second degree” in another. That could result in the second jurisdiction getting credited with more rapes, if however the numbers are counted somehow fails to account for this. Or even if two jurisdictions have a charge called “rape in the first degree,” but what has to occur to charge someone with this is more involved in one jurisdiction than another.

Or, it could even have to do with an overcrowded criminal justice system. New York has such a backlog of cases, that everything that can be plea bargained can, so a lot of people against whom there was a pretty solid case for rape in the first degree might get that charge dismissed, and plead to criminal sexual act in the first degree. There are also states where you can be charged with several things for the same act, so a jury may find you guilty of several lesser crimes, but not the actual charge of rape, and other states where you can be charged with one crime for a specific act, so the prosecutor has to decide whether to charge you with rape or not, and if there is a jury trial, the jury has not choice but to find you guilty of the one thing you are charged with, or let you go.

All those differences can cause different jurisdictions to end up with different statistics. New York may have a lower murder rate than Chicago, for example, but is the overall homicide rate closer, or even further apart? Indiana for example, has a fairly high rate of gun deaths, but a low murder rate, because the accidental gun death (hunting accidents, children getting hold of guns) is pretty high. So while the gun crime rate is low, if you ask me, Indiana still has a gun problem.

I remember a report about North Dakota where people, especially women, didn’t feel safe going out at night because of the types of feral men attracted by the oil boom. I presume it disproportionately attracts the same kind of men who, in other eras, would have become sailors, pirates, mercenaries or robbers.
How bad is the opioid/meth situation in Alaska and North Dakota? Living in a vast wasteland with little to do but get work and drunk/high will not draw the best out of that kind of person.

Alaska population has slightly lower average age and larger percentage of males compared to the national average. Rape perpetrators are more likely to be younger and male, so the demographic difference alone may skew the rape rate by a few percent.

Alaska has led the country in rape rates for many years. Nobody knows exactly why, but there are a few leading theories. I’ll expand on a few things that others have mentioned, and mention a few more. This is not a statistical blip, nor does it see to be recent. What is recent is acceptance of what the data has said for a long time.

Native American populations: There are a high percentage of Native Americans in the state, and as of 2013 they made of 61% of rape victims.

Remoteness/police presence: Many remote areas either have no direct police presence, or the police don’t respond to rape calls. Literally.



High ratio of men to women may contribute. Not all men are rapists, but when there are more of them to each woman the percentage of rapes increases.

Cycle or generational aspect. It happens to men as well as women when they are children. They grow up and repeat the behavior to others. Rinse and repeat. cite

Are there any stats on the proportion of rapists who are natives?