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How to help reduce rape in Alaska

By Rebecca Angel Baer, CNN
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alaska is estimated to have the highest reported rape rate in the nation
  • Readers voted for CNN columnist John Sutter to focus on this issue
  • CNN has vetted a list of nonprofits providing counseling, medical attention and shelter
  • There are many ways CNN readers can help rape victims, even from afar

(CNN) -- CNN columnist John D. Sutter recently traveled to Alaska to try to find out why that state has the highest rate of reported rape in the nation -- three times the national average -- and what could be done to change that. He's asking readers to be part of the solution.

You voted for him to cover this topic as part of CNN's Change the List project.

The truth is even one rape is too many -- in Alaska or anywhere.

Women and men who are victims of rape or sexual assault need support from their communities and from you. Here are some CNN-vetted organizations working to reduce the rate of violence against women in America's 49th state:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, is the organization that runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673). A caller can be connected a local organization within their communities that can help them find the nearest hospital capable of collecting forensic evidence of a rape. They can also provide an advocate to go to the hospital with a rape victim. RAINN can also assist with counseling and legal guidance. The organization has affiliates all over the country, including several in Alaska.

Standing Together Against Rape

One of RAINN's Alaska affiliates is called STAR, or Standing Together against Rape. STAR is based in Anchorage and has several of its own hotlines as well. The local crisis number is 907-276-7273, and statewide, it's 800-478-8999. STAR has served survivors of sexual assault in Alaska for more than 30 years, providing a confidential and safe place to talk through their experience as well as a connection to medical and social services. STAR also works with Abuse Women's Aid in Crisis or AWAIC to provide a 24-hour shelter where victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault may live for up to a month.

Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Another group helping sexual assault survivors in Alaska is ANDVSA, or the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. This network of programs has served Alaska since 1980, providing survivors with emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis hotlines, food, clothing, confidential advocacy, counseling, support groups and community outreach as well as rural outreach. This group has a presence in much of the state, including more rural and remote areas.

The Fourth R

The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault's community outreach is extensive. It even has a special program for schools called The Fourth R, which is designed to develop skills of students in grades seven through nine on how to handle bullying, personal relationships, peer and dating violence, substance use and other high-risk behaviors. More than 50 schools in Alaska participate in the Fourth R program.

Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies

Finally, there's Juneau-based AWARE, or Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies. The group has two crisis hotlines -- one for Juneau (907-586-1090) and one for the rest of Alaska (800-478-1090). AWARE provides an advocate to listen to survivor's stories and discuss legal options. It also operates a shelter in Juneau, one of the first in the state. While the advocates are not attorneys, they can provide the proper paperwork and support to get a protective order.

Rape and sexual assault are problems anywhere they occur, and there are many programs nationwide worthy of support. But as Sutter found in his study, the rate is alarmingly high in Alaska. Even if you live far away from America's "Last Frontier," you can help make the state safer by supporting these organizations.

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