Native American women, domestic violence and Congress

By Samhita Mukhopadhyay Jul 31, 2007

Cross-posted from Feministing. 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.