As part of a recent push to address the public safety crisis in rural Alaska, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division hosted roundtable discussions on sexual harassment and racial discrimination in housing.

A Wednesday news release from the office of U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder states the meetings took place on Sept. 18 and 19 in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Last week's events included state, tribal and federal agencies; non-profit organizations and crisis and legal service providers that work with Alaska's most vulnerable populations — people who could also become victims of sexual harassment or racial discrimination in housing.

The purpose of the roundtables mirrors the mission of the recently formed Rural Alaska Anti-Violence Enforcement Network. Schroder created the RAAVEN working group to focus on building the capacities of federal, state and tribal law enforcement in rural Alaska, using funds authorized by U.S. Attorney General William Barr after his visit to the state this summer.

"Many women facing violence and abuse in rural Alaska come to Anchorage or Fairbanks looking for a fresh start and new opportunities. These roundtables will help ensure that women and other vulnerable populations from all over Alaska are treated respectfully and fairly as they seek housing," Schroder said in the release.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability, but many people may not realize the conduct they’ve experienced violates the act.

“The Justice Department brings cases each year involving egregious conduct, including allegations that defendants have requested sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, made unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evicted tenants who resisted their sexual overtures,” the release reads.

The DOJ recovered $1 million in damages for victims of harassment or discrimination in housing in 2017, according to the release. The department says its investigations often uncover harassment or discrimination that has been happening for years or decades and find numerous victims who never reported the conduct to federal authorities.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the DOJ say they hope to work with community organizations to raise awareness and help victims report abuse.

Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment or discrimination in housing or knows someone who has is encouraged to contact the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division by calling 844-380-6178 or emailing fairhousing@usdoj.gov

Angela Krenzien contributed to this report.

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