This is a fairly grim statistic found by the Urban Indian Health Initiative in a study released this week titled Reproductive Health of Urban American Indian and Alaska Native Women (pdf).
From the report introduction by Sarah Deer (Muscogee Creek) Assistant Professor,
Advocates for Native women may not be surprised by many of these findings, but this report confirms what many have been saying for years: Native women continue to be socially, economically, and physically marginalized by a society that doesn’t prioritize and sometimes doesn’t even acknowledge the realities of their lives. This report also makes crucial connections between violence and health. Violence against Native women is a public health crisis, and the urban experience has not received the same degree of attention as that on reservations and rural tribal communities.
Amnesty International found a similar statistic a few years ago which found that Native Alaskan women were 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in their life. This new study further compounds this evidence and makes clear the role that violence plays in the lives of these women. Evidence this quantifiable indicates a systemic problem with lack of resources, cycles of crime, lack of legal attention or resources and lack of health services.
The study also found trends in how Native Alaskan women are using sterilization for birth control. Via the Associated Press,
Another finding that stunned researchers was the rate at which women chose sterilization — 34 percent — compared with whites at 20 percent. Also prevalent among young Native women between the ages of 15 and 24 was the use of the injectable long-lasting hormonal contraceptive Depo-Provera, which researchers say can cause weight gain. That’s a possible health risk for American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are three times more likely to die from diabetes.
If Native Alaskan and Indigenous women are being sexually assaulted, often before the age of 15, at a rate 2 times the national average then it is an epidemic, it is a health crisis and it is an extension of systematic violence that can’t be ignored.
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