Saturday, April 28, 2007

Native American women face high rape rate

Take Back the Blog! A few years ago I attended a conference organized by a coalition of African American women's groups. One of the astounding things I learned was that at least 50% of African American women are raped or assaulted. When the workshop presenter ask everyone who had been assaulted to stand up, nearly everyone in the room got up. I was just blown away.
Now the Washington Post reports that one in three Native American women will be raped at some point in their lives.

The report, "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA," noted a variety of reasons that rape is so prevalent on reservations, according to its authors.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Oliphant v. the Suquamish Indian Tribe that tribal governments have no criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. When a crime is committed, tribal police and their non-Indian counterparts must hash out whether the suspect is Indian or not.

Tribal governments lack the funds and staffing to patrol their lands, the report said. At the million-acre Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota, seven police officers are on duty. In Alaska, where state and native police patrol a vast landscape, officers took four hours to reach the village of Nunam Iqua, during which time a barricaded suspect raped a 13-year-old girl in front of her siblings.

"It is extremely frustrating," said Jason O'Neal, chief of the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department in south-central Oklahoma. "It's confusing for the victim because they don't know who they should be calling. A victim of domestic violence may call 911, the sheriff's office or our office."

The Bush administration can spend billions on a civil war in Iraq, but we don't have sufficient funds to protect women in the United States.

"It is disgraceful that such abuse exists today," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International's executive director. "Without immediate action, an already abysmal and outrageous situation for women could spiral even further out of control."

The power to end violence begins with each and every one of us. What could YOU do to make this country safer for women and girls?

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