Thursday, May 17, 2007

Amnesty's Report on Native American and Alaska Native Women.

I know this is old news, but I promised to blog about it, and maybe some of you haven't read about this yet. You probably all heard that the Amnesty International report found that more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.

Did you know that the U.S. Government has made it difficult to impossible for a Native woman to report a rape on the reservation?

According to Andrea Smith, author of Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, "rape falls under the Major Crimes Act," which means that "tribes are generally reliant upon the federal governments to prosecute sexual assualt cases." However, she explains, "Department of Justice representatives have informally reported that U.S. attorneys decline to prosecute about 75 percent of all cases involving any crime in Indian country. U.S. attorneys are particularly reluctant to prosecute rape cases...[and as of] 1997...only two U.S. attorneys regularly prosecute[d] rape cases in Indian country" (32).

Let me quote a bit more, here. What this means is that the Federal Government cannot be relied upon to prosecute these cases. But, Smith continues, "[b]ecause sexual assault is covered under the Major Crimes Act, many tribes have not developed codes to address the problem in those rape cases the federal government declines to prosecute. Those with codes are often hindered in their ability to investigate by a wait that may last more than a year before federal investigators formally turn over cases. In addition, the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) of 1968 limits the punishment tribal justice systems can enforce on perpetrators...[and] the U.S. can prohibit remedies [such as banishment] that do not follow the same penalties of the dominant system" (32).

Rosa Del Angel of Amnesty International writes me that,
"At the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (in North and South Dakota), women often have to wait hours or even days before receiving a response from the
Standing Rock Police Department, 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.

Some survivors have to travel more than an hour to get to the Indian Health Service (HIS) hospital in Fort Yates, where they may discover that no one on staff can conduct a sexual assault forensic exam. Staff may send women to a medical facility in Bismarck, 80 miles away -- those that make this journey may then face lengthy delays and leave without an exam. If a woman has to go to a non-IHS facility, she may initially be charged for the service. These factors can be a serious barrier to reporting the crime and undergoing a forensic examination."

Does this make you angry? Take action.

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