“Violence against Native women not a part of our traditional communities”
Feds, Indian leaders confront frightening statistics
Sam Lewin 9/21/2006
The numbers offered by advocacy groups can seem difficult to believe. A group called the American Indian Women’s Chemical Health Project asserts that three-fourths of Native American women have experienced some type of sexual assault in their lives. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s figures on sexual assault-while significantly lower than that of the health project’s-are nonetheless frightening: American Indian and Alaskan Native women are significantly more likely (34-percent) to report being raped than black women (19-percent) or Caucasian women (18-percent).
While accurate figures on the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault are notoriously tough to quantify, Native American leaders have long recognized something is seriously wrong. In Denver, over 100 representatives from American Indian and Alaska Native tribes recently met with officials from the Department of Justice to address the problem, which National Congress of American Indians president Joe Garcia called an epidemic.
This epidemic not only impacts the individual women and families affected, it undermines the stability of the community as a whole," Garcia said. "Women play an honored and respected role in Native communities. Violence against Native women is not natural and is not a part of our traditional communities. Traditional Native cultures valued respect, honor, and compassion for all living things."
NCAI officials say the meeting with the DOJ happened after President Bush signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act into law. The measure included a portion applicable to Indian Country.
The NCAI was a strong supporter of reauthorization of the law, saying in a statement the law recognizes “the unique impact and disproportionate levels of violence committed against Indian women. It would enhance the civil and criminal justice response; improve services and outreach to victims; provide resources for sexual assault victims through rape crisis centers and state coalitions; help children and youth who experience or witness violence; aidtribal victims; and support prevention, health, housing and economic security programs designed to stop violence and help victims.”
"American Indians, in general, experience per capita rates of violence that are much higher than those of the general population," said the NCAI’s Juana Majel-Dixon, citing the center’s statistics, during the Denver conference. “One out of three American Indian and Alaskan Native women are raped in their lifetime, compared with about one out of five women in the overall national statistic. These statistics must change and I am confident that this consultation will help facilitate that."
Back in Oklahoma, tribes have also taken on domestic violence. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s family violence prevention program, for example, routinely issues calls to remind area Natives about the services they offer including: individual and family counseling, weekly support groups, emergency housing and transportation, and court advocacy. The program also runs transitional living program that assists victims of domestic violence in achieving independence. Clients willing to sign and complete a service plan can also receive assistance with rent, utilities, clothing and/or food. These services are available to members of any federally recognized tribe.