Native Women in Alaska Are Twice as Likely to Experience Sexual Assault.

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.
Related:
An Indigenous Perspective on Palin, Oil and Alaska
Palin Unpopular Among Indigenous Alaskans
An Open Letter to Sarah Palin
Biden vs Palin on Indigenous Issues
Palin’s rural advisor quits.

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3 Comments

  1. nikki#2
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    What are the statistics on the men assaulting these women? Are they other Alaskan natives, white men, etc? What are the cultural attitudes about rape and violence against women in these communities? I think knowing this information is absolutely vital in working on a solution.

  2. Sarah
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi — I think the title and content of this post need to be corrected. The report does not just focus on Alaska Native women – it is generally focused on American Indian/Alaska Native women. The scope of the report is all 50 states – not just Alaska.
    Nikki — You’re correct – we need much more information about the perpetrators. This study, however, focused on survey results that didn’t include that information.
    Thanks!
    Sarah Deer
    St. Paul MN

  3. Audentia
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    You might be interested in what Amnesty has had to say on this.
    (HUGE trigger warning, but if you can manage it, essential reading)
    Older numbers, but:
    “According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men…In Oklahoma, one support worker for Native American survivors of sexual violence told Amnesty International that 58 per cent of the cases she had worked on in the preceding 18 months involved non-Native perpetrators. In Anchorage, Alaska, a statistical study found that 57.7 per cent of Alaska Native victims of sexual violence reported that their attackers had been non-Native men.”
    Or you could just Google “rape tourism.”
    Pretty Bird Woman House, a domestic violence shelter for Native women in South Dakota, has a lot of really good links to more info that I highly recommend you check out.

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