Sexual assault and domestic is a rising problem here in Alaska.

Alaska's sexual crime rates are three times higher than the national average. Domestic and sexual abuse is a big problem in Alaska's villages. The Department of Public Safety reported in 2017 that 54 percent of Alaskan sexual assault victims are Alaska Natives. 

There are a lot of reasons for that, said Diane Casto, executive director for the Department of Public Safety.

"We are a large state an isolated state with a transient population with very small communities where it's easy to again isolation so there a lot of reasons," she said.

In order to combat this growing issue, the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault recently awarded $18 million to two dozen state groups that advocate for victims of abuse.

"We are really excited to start branching out and getting more programming in rural Alaska because that is a really critical issue," said Casto.

The Victims' Services Grant program provides critical and immediate emergency services, support and referrals to individuals and families impacted by domestic and sexual violence, child abuse and other violent crimes. The remainder of the funds will support sexual assault and domestic violence prevention efforts, as well as batterers intervention programs statewide.

This week, all of the grantees are in Anchorage to learn about ways they can help their communities and discuss how to move forward.

"One thing we know is that every community is different, so you can't have a cookie cutter model that everything works for that community," Casto said. "We are really training our grantees how to look at things and assess our communities."

Joann Horn with the Emmonak Women's Shelter says this grant money and training will make a big impact to the 13 villages in her area.

"I think this will help with the services that we provide, more staff at the office and working with children and reaching out to the rural outreach program to see where we can help to see where we can help them more," said Horn.

Horn says lack of transportation and money add to the problem.

"We do what we can to help at our own local level especially when we don't have the fast response from the police department," said Horn.

This issue is a problem that hits home for Horn.

"I work in this field because I am a survivor of domestic violence and that's how I wanted to work with families. I like working with the families," said Horn.

She hopes to bring back what she learns in Anchorage, to her community, to help fix this issue plaguing parts of rural Alaska.

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