Native American women, domestic violence and Congress.

Native and indigenous women are victims of domestic violence at higher rates than the average American woman. Why is that? A history of displacement, colonization and violence I am sure have something to do with it, along with lack of resources, legislation or education to help women out of bad situations. You know, just a few minor bumps in the road.
I guess Congress noticed after an Amnesty report found that Native and Alaskan women are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes.

The House of Representatives Wednesday approved a bipartisan measure that would provide one million dollars for the creation of a tribal sex offender and protection order registry to identify serial perpetrators of such assaults, most of whom are non-Indian.
The same measure, which was approved by a 412-18 vote, provides an additional million dollars to conduct a baseline study on sexual violence committed against indigenous women in the U.S. to better identify the extent of abuse and how best to address it. Both appropriations have already been approved by the Senate.

The study also found that 86% of assault against indigenous women is by non-indigenous men, who are rarely caught or charged with the crime.

“American Indian and Alaska Native women are living in a virtual war zone, where rape, abuse and murder are commonplace and sexual predators prey with impunity,” Sarah Deer, an attorney at the California-based Tribal Law and Policy Institute, told IPS in April.
“In many tribal communities, rape and molestation are so common that young women fully expect that they will be victims of sexual violence at some point,” she noted, adding that the weakening of tribal justice systems by the federal government has made it far more difficult for victims of sexual violence to gain redress.
Indeed, federal and tribal statistics may understate the degree of violence suffered by Native American women, according to the report, which noted that fear of retaliation and the lack of confidence that the authorities will take allegations of assault seriously tend to reduce reporting of sexual assault throughout the United States, as well as in Native American communities.
One support worker in Oklahoma, for example, told AI that only three of her 77 active cases of sexual and domestic violence had been reported to the police.

Half the problem is trying to figure out where to try the case. This combined with lack of resources in tribal courts, makes for a pretty dismal situation.
via TruthOut.
Thanks to Jenny for the heads up.

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17 Comments

  1. Jessi
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    I remember reading about this in the Amnesty International magazine last month. It broke my heart. Especially the part where a social worker listed a statistic that said 1 in 3 Native women will be raped. People asked her “Isn’t that a bit low?” because EVERY SINGLE WOMAN THEY KNEW had been raped.
    The fact that it’s mostly non-indigenous men somehow makes it more disgusting. Apparently most rapists attack women of their own ethnic group, but in the case of Native women, men come ONTO the reservation for the explicit purpose of raping them and getting away with it.
    By they by, does anyone know who the 18 congressmen were who voted against this bill?

  2. Mina
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    “The fact that it’s mostly non-indigenous men somehow makes it more disgusting. Apparently most rapists attack women of their own ethnic group, but in the case of Native women, men come ONTO the reservation for the explicit purpose of raping them and getting away with it.”
    I just saw another article that reminded me a bit of this:
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/crime/bal-md.interpreters29jul29,0,566102.story
    “…The challenges that come with meeting that growing need were illustrated in a ruling this month in Montgomery County, where a judge dismissed a case against a Liberian immigrant charged with raping and repeatedly molesting a 7-year-old girl. The judge ruled that the nearly three-year delay in bringing the case to trial – mostly because of the court system’s struggle to find a competent interpreter fluent in the man’s native West African language of Vai – had violated his right to a speedy trial…
    “…Sometimes, a defendant’s claim that he needs an interpreter seems to be disingenuous, said Nowaskey, the former language service company owner.
    “‘Most of the defendants speak English very well,’ he said. ‘It’s a game that a lot of the defendants play.’
    “That issue was at play in the Montgomery County case that was recently dismissed.
    “Prosecutors argued that Mahamu Kanneh, the rape suspect, did not really need help understanding what was happening in court, pointing out that he attended high school and community college in Montgomery County and spoke to police detectives in English. But a court-appointed psychiatrist who evaluated the defendant recommended that a Vai interpreter be appointed, and judges who handled subsequent hearings heeded that advice…”
    It seems like either way, someone’s using his culture to claim that the local courts can’t try him for rape.

  3. midevil
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    The poverty and the resulting abuses are the same on northern Canadian reserves. Our news media up here covers it up by saying that sure, the people are poor on reserves, but they are very loving and lie lie lie.

  4. CaitsDay
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    NPR did a recent series on Talk of the Nation about the severe sexual assault problems on reservations.
    There’s a big issue with enforcement. If a non-Native American commits a crime on a reservation, reservation law enforcement have no recourse to arrest and try the offender.
    On top of that, the number of law enforcement officials is pathetically low because there are simply no funds.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12203114
    “…Ironroad told the officer how she was raped and said that the men locked her in a bathroom, where she swallowed diabetes pills she found in the cabinet, hoping that if she was unconscious the men would leave her alone. The next morning, someone found her on the bathroom floor and called an ambulance.
    A week later, Ironroad was dead — and so was the investigation. None of the authorities who could have investigated what happened to Leslie Ironroad did — not the Bureau of Indian Affairs, nor the FBI, nor anybody else.
    People who know the men who likely attacked her say they were never even questioned.
    Archambault couldn’t believe nothing came of Ironroad’s report.
    “She named all the people that were there, the ones that were hitting her, the ones that were fighting her, she named everybody — what more else?” Archambault asked. ”
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12260610
    This article goes into more heartbreaking detail about the complicated and intricate pathways that a woman must navigate in order to get her rape reported, investigated, and tried and hopefully have the rapist convicted. Apparently that is a very unlikely result for Native American rape victims.
    “…Renee Brewer, who works at the courthouse as a victim’s advocate, remembers a case from a year ago. A woman who had been assaulted called the police and told them that her attacker was still hiding in her closet.
    “I get there, and there are four different law-enforcement agencies on the front lawn with the victim, arguing, ‘Well this is your case, you have jurisdiction of this.’ You could go on and on with scenarios,” Brewer said. “Then you wonder why these cases are not getting prosecuted — because the United States government made it as difficult as possible for us to handle our own prosecutions on our own land.”

  5. Mina
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    “There’s a big issue with enforcement. If a non-Native American commits a crime on a reservation, reservation law enforcement have no recourse to arrest and try the offender.”
    That’s so wrong. If a New Yorker commits a crime in Massachusetts then a Massachusetts court can try her or him, so why can’t a reservation court try someone from outside that reservation who commits a crime in the reservation?

  6. Posted July 31, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Amnesty has more on their page, go to:
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA20070726001&lang=e
    The amendment appears to be H Amdt 664 to bill HR 3093. Here’s the roll call vote:
    http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll730.xml
    Of the 18 against, you’ll see that 7 are dems and rest are republicans.

  7. brozzle
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    In college in Toronto I did a presentation on sexual (and other) violence against aboriginal women in Canada, and while I can’t remember any hard statistics the stories are practically identical in both countries, which is just sh***y. Nearly all girls experience sexual assault before the age of either 14 or 15 and police are totally f*cking dormant.

  8. stinsonnick
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    “one million dollars for the creation of a tribal sex offender and protection order registry to identify serial perpetrators of such assaults, most of whom are non-Indian.”
    This is not going to address the fundamental oppression facing Native women. How is keeping a registry of convicted rapists going to stop rape from occurring in the first place?
    Also, creating a registry requires that the men be successfully tried and convicted of being a serial rapist [they have to do it more than once], and prosecuting these crimes is one of the biggest challenges to start with!

  9. sojourner
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I read in that same report that jessi refers to, that when indigenous Alaskan women call state troopers to report rape like their supposed too, often, state troopers don’t show up, sometimes they just take a report over the phone, sometimes they show up after a few days, and there is no rape kits. In addition, the few existing shelters no longer operate b/c state funding has been cut off. The only explanation is that the state and federal governments simply do not care about Native Americans.

  10. Lucy Stone
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    “The only explanation is that the state and federal governments simply do not care about Native Americans.”
    Absolutely agreed. My sister works on a reservation, and she has told me numerous times how evident the state/federal governments’ lack of concern for Native Americans is.
    People who live off-reservation who commit crimes on the reservation are rarely prosecuted, and my sister’s co-workers all have their own stories about state police not responding to a call. Racism is also in the neighboring town (the source of many of the people who commit these crimes) is so blatant, widespread, and accepted that any conversation with people there about where my sister works almost inevitably leads to the other person making a racist comment. It’s completely disgusting.

  11. Lucy Stone
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Argh…dang you, lack of an edit feature. That should read “Racism in the neighboring town,” not “Racism is also in the nrighboring town”

  12. Posted July 31, 2007 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Working for my teacher’s aide diploma, I took a course called “multicultralism”. Being in canada, that was mostly native affairs. According to the book (And I can’t find it so I don’t have sources), the very BEST of reserves are equivalent to the very WORST of white society.
    The poverty on the reserves is staggering. The lack of education appalling. The abuse of drugs and alcohol, the treatment of women and children. It was really horrifying to me. I felt suddenly like I was living a very privaleged life.

  13. qgirl
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    if you want to understand more about the connection between sexual and intimate partner violence and colonization check out Andrea Smith’s work. Conquest:Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide

  14. MegsFrad
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I am reading a great book written by Mary Crow Dog, which covers her stuggles as a Lakota Indian. Not surprisingly, she opens her story by mentioning the wonderful women in her life, most of whom were found dead in some random back road. It also depicts her experience in the minister schools, which adhered to the motto ‘civilize them with a stick.’
    Its a vivid and interesting read.
    Lakota Woman, Mary Crow Dog.

  15. alison052579
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I work on a reservation, and the sexism that still exists within tribal culture borders is scary. The violence on the reservation is in itself frightening, and the violence against women is overwhelming. The reservation I work for has only two tribal police officers, and is ill equiped to deal with much more than a drunken fight. The Sherrifs office hates to be called out and often treats the tribal members with disdain when dealing with them. This comes from the small town I live ins blatent long standing racism.
    I think in the US we tend to think of reservations (if we think of them at all) as gambling spots. We do not see that here sits a group of people forgoten in poverty, strugling to create industry, and dealing with a precived inferiority.
    The other issue is their soverign status, if the tribal court consists of the brother of your rapist, your cousin who molested you at seven, and your drunk third uncle… do you trust them to carry out justice? More likely you just keep the attack to yourself. My refernce may seem silly, but I have heard stories of tribal courts that had to figure out how to try a crime because the accused was on the counsel of the court!

  16. Mina
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    “The other issue is their soverign status, if the tribal court consists of the brother of your rapist, your cousin who molested you at seven, and your drunk third uncle… do you trust them to carry out justice? More likely you just keep the attack to yourself. My refernce may seem silly, but I have heard stories of tribal courts that had to figure out how to try a crime because the accused was on the counsel of the court!”
    Does this remind anyone else of Dr. Nanette Rogers’s report last year?

  17. Posted August 1, 2007 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    i’m the sarah deer quotes in the article (hi!) – and i just wanted to let you know there are several national Native women’s organizations that are working to address these issues. you can google them: sacred circle, mending the sacred hoop, clan star, southwest center for law and policy, and my org, tribal law and policy institute. we need your support! remember, most of us are a little tired of people coming and trying to solve our problems for us. instead, provide resources, time, and energy to allow Native women to organize on their own terms. CHEERS :)

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