Thursday, April 26, 2007

Inexcusable

This number is shockingly high, and inexcusable(h/t Adam):

Native American and Alaskan women are suffering rates of rape and sexual violence nearly three times higher than the US national average, Amnesty says in a new study released Tuesday.

The figures said more than one in three Native women would be raped in their lifetime, although that figure may in fact be substantially higher because of a traditional reluctance to report sex crimes.

One in three? And it could be higher? What the hell is going on here??

The Amnesty Internatinional USA report, titled Maze of Injustice is available online (in PDF format) but a summary of the report's findings is available here (an accompanying video is available here.) Some of the findings:

The United States government has created a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that often allows perpetrators to rape with impunity -- and in some cases effectively creates jurisdictional vacuums that encourage assaults.

Further complications are the lack of trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) at Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities to provide forensic exams, and the potential for law enforcement to mishandle evidence when rape kits are used.

AI learned of two Native American women who reportedly were gang-raped by three non-Native men in Oklahoma; however, because the women were forced to wear blindfolds, support workers were concerned that the women would be unable to say whether the rapes took place on federal, state or tribal land and that, because of jurisdictional complexities in Oklahoma, the women may never see justice served.

There have been times when only one officer was on duty for the entire Reservation. Women often have to wait hours or even days before receiving a response from SRPD, if they receive one at all. Many survivors reported that they had experienced sexual violence several times in their lives at the hands of different perpetrators.

Alaska ranks number one for rapes in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Alaska Native women also experience high levels of sexual violence in both rural and urban areas. According to one study, between 2000 and 2003, Alaska Native people in Anchorage were 9.7 times more likely to experience sexual assault than others living in the city. Meanwhile, at least one-third of Alaska Native villages that are not accessible by road have no law enforcement presence at all. Alaska Native women may have to pay for an expensive trip to reach a hospital or clinic for a sexual assault forensic examination.

Jurisdictional issues are one concern, but what would go a long way towards remedying this severe problem? Money:

The U.S. Congress should fully fund and implement the Violence Against Women Act -- and in particular Tribal Title (Title IX), the first-ever effort within VAWA to fight violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.

The U.S. Congress should increase funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and IHS contract facilities.

The federal government must provide the necessary funding for police forces in Indian Country and Alaska Native villages, with particular attention paid to improving coverage in rural areas and the funding and resources to enable tribal authorities to develop and maintain tribal courts.

A government that is currently mired in a decade long dispute with several tribes regarding wasted and lost trust funds is unlikely to turn around and fund these programs without some prodding. Having a Democratic Congress helps, but if you want to help with some of that prodding, you can take action here. I urge you not to wait. Write your members of Congress and ask them to do something about this issue. I hope that this report isn't the last I seen written about this issue, and I'll be sure to link to any good discussions that I see online and on the blogs.

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