Last week I posted on the high incidences of rape/sexual assault that Native American women face in higher numbers compared to other racial/ethnic groups of women. (One in three NA women will face rape and sexual battery in her lifetime, compared to black, white and other women in the U.S.population.):
Last year I posted Amnesty International’s 2007 report on the uninvestigated rapes of NA women:
Here is AI’s original report from 2007 (covers documentation on rapes against NA women in the years 2005 and 2006):
This year’s new report is an update to AI’s report on the rapes that NA women suffer, and how NA women are the most ignored, abused, and marginalised women in this country. The report addresses how tribes can be helped to combat this traumatic horror that is being visited upon helpless women who have had their voices silenced from these atrocities.
Here is an excerpt:
“Maze of Injustice” has brought a face to violence and sexual assault in this country that most people have never seen before. The cries from the “Grass Roots” women in Indian County are finally being heard throughout the halls of Congress. Amnesty International and Native women have worked together to bring this issue to the attention of policy makers. It is now time for those policy makers to make changes that will improve the lives of Native women!”
On April 24, 2007, Amnesty International issued a report entitled
Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA
The U.S. Department of Justice’s own statistics indicate that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general and that 86% of the reported crimes are committed by non-Native men. The AI report found that as a result of barriers including a complex jurisdictional maze and a chronic lack of resources for law enforcement and health services, perpetrators are not being brought to justice. Native American and Alaska Native women:
May get a police response;
May never have access to a sexual assault forensic examination; and
May never see their case prosecuted.
None of this is inevitable or irreversible. The voices of Indigenous women who have come forward to speak about these issues send a message of courage and hope that change can and will happen.
Their voices are being heard: Over the past year the issue of violence against Indigenous women has risen significantly on the political agenda. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held three hearings
and the House Committee on Natural Resources also held a hearing on law enforcement in Indian Country, and specifically included sexual violence. Indigenous advocates, survivors and AI staff testified at these hearings. On the local level, an AI survey of advocates who provided information for Maze of Injustice found that the report has been useful as to “raise awareness” and to “begin critical conversation”.
Read the rest of the report here:
From the archives of AI:
INDIVIDUALS AT RISK
“A Breeding Ground for Sexual Predators”
C, a Native American woman whose name has been withheld by Amnesty International, was sharing a non-alcoholic drink with a white man and woman in August 2004 when she became drowsy and passed out.
She came to in a motel room, where the man proceeded to vaginally rape her and the woman inserted a beer bottle in her vagina. C reported the crime, and was referred to a victim/witness co-ordinator.
The co-ordinator noted that C was very sensitive about her rape, and required repeated reassurance that it was not her fault. But, the co-ordinator alleged, this was no ordinary post-tramautic reaction. Instead, C “may have been intoxicated.”
The case was eventually dismissed after C did not appear for the court hearing. But she said she was waiting outside the courtroom the whole time. No one called her in for the hearing.
This is just one of the appalling stories in Amnesty’s report Maze of Injustice, on the failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the United States.
According to research done by Amnesty groups, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime than other women in the United States in general. More than one in three Indigenous women in the United States are rape victims. And non-Native men often specifically target Native women as victims of rape and sexual violence, knowing that the chances they will be persecuted are low.
According to one rape support worker, tribal areas are becoming a “breeding ground for sexual predators.”
One reason is that jurisdiction over American Indian and Alaska Native lands is complicated and full of holes. Dealing with Native-on-Native violence often falls to tribal police, but when non-Natives become involved, these police often have little to no power. The federal and state authorities who then become involved are sometimes insensitive to Indigenous issues, and often simply stretched too thin to deal with a problem they see as secondary to drug trafficking or terrorist threats.
In other words, sometimes these crimes against Indigenous women simply get overlooked. But, as in the case above, sometimes rapes against Native American women go unpunished for far more insidious reasons.
Often survivors are blamed for their rape, with law enforcement officials accusing them of intoxication or criticizing them for dressing in revealing clothes. Last time I looked, there was no such thing as “asking” to be raped. But centuries of racism and oppression against American Indians have created the stereotype of the alcoholic Native, leading one juror in a rape trial to dismiss a rape survivor as “Just another drunk Indian.”
“Maze of Injustice,” released earlier this year, contains several recommendations for how to improve the situation. Many of the steps involve long-term changes in juristiction over Native American lands and improvements to resources for rape victims, but you can have a more immediate impact, too. Encourage your congressman to support the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — especially the Tribal Title (Title IX), established to meet the needs of American Indian and Alaksa Native women.
It won’t erase the myriad injustices that have already been done to Indigenous people in the United States. But it will be a step in the right direction.