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Press Release

Criminal Division Director corrects statements on marriage as a defense to sexual assault

May 9, 2019

(Anchorage, AK) – Yesterday, there were statements made based on a misunderstanding of the testimony Criminal Division Director John Skidmore made in the House Finance Committee on the topic of marriage as a defense to sexual assault. The Department of Law wanted to correct the record and clarify that the Department continues to advocate for removal of this archaic law.

"It is unfortunate that some members of the House voted to uphold this archaic law based on a misunderstanding of what I said. So let me be clear. Sexual contact without freely given, informed consent is sexual assault. The marriage defense should be repealed to protect those who cannot protect themselves," said Director Skidmore.

Mr. Skidmore explained that his comments were targeted to illustrate why those with diminished capacity need to be protected, and were not supportive of retaining the marriage defense. "In an attempt to illustrate behavior that the current law protects, I used the example of my own family—of my grandmother experiencing advanced dementia, to the point of not recognizing her own family members or the nature of her own conduct. I told the committee that I would have advised my grandfather that sexual relations would be inappropriate at that point because he was a stranger to her. The current law allows one spouse to engage in sexual activity with a mentally incapable spouse without their consent. This is wrong. Repealing this outdated law will not impact intimacy between spouses; it will just afford spouses the protections against sexual assault that everyone else enjoys."

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Department Media Contact: Senior Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills at (907) 465-2132 or cori.mills@alaska.gov.