Editor's Note: On Thursday, the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hear testimony on the sex trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native females. While the Native News Network attempts to publish articles that can be read by the entire family, this story and subsequent ones on the subject should be monitored by parents, guardians and adults. Some of the material printed may be too sensitive for young readers.
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - One has to wonder if the testimony was to be about blonde-haired and blue-eyed females, the national media would pay more attention.
The stories off American Indian and Alaska Native females lured into prostitution must be told and that is what William Mitchell College of Law, Associate Professor Sarah Deer, Muskogee/Creek, will to do on Thursday, as she testifies before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Deer, who has spent the past several years researching this topic told Native News Network Wednesday afternoon that there were periods of time she had to stop her research because the topic was so emotionally draining.
Deer was part of a team of researchers at the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research and Education that interviewed 105 American Indian women who were prostituted and trafficked in Minneapolis, Duluth and Bemidji, Minnesota.
The information she presents as testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs are the preliminary data that will be written and analyzed prior to release of an actual report later this year.
"The preliminary findings are quite alarming. The number of Native women who were prostituted is out of proportion to the general population. This was very consistent with what is going on among First Nation women in Canada," said Deer.
The average age of the 105 interviewed was 35 years old, ranging from 18 - 60 years. While the interviewees were all adults at the time of the interviews, many of the Native women reported being lured into prostitution as young as 12 - 13 years old.
Of the 105 interviewed, 77 percent identified as American Indian women only. The other 23 percent identified as multicultural - American Indian and other racial/ethic backgrounds.
96% had a history of current or previous homelessness.
95% wanted to escape prostitution.
70% of the women they knew in prostitution had been lured, tricked or trafficked into it.
The reasons may vary why they get so easily enticed into the deep dark life of prostitution. Several of those interviewed admitted to being substance abusers, including alcohol and/or drugs and being homeless. Some were homeless because they were runaways.
"I am deeply concerned about those who are labeled runaways. They often are not taken seriously by law enforcement. They become very vulnerable for the predators lurking out there," commented Deer.
Several of the interviewees made the following comments about their lives in prostitution:
"Prostitution is like suicide."
"It's like incest - no one wants to talk about it."
"They (pimps, traffickers and their women helpers) don't tell you the down side: 'oh yeah, you'll feel this way and probably kill yourself.' Women glamorize it to other women in order to hide their real feelings, to cover up what it's really like - 'yeah I got this fur coat (but you don't know what I did to get it.)"
"I wouldn't say they are pimps anymore. Now, they're all boyfriends."
Disturbingly, the women described being used for sex by hundreds of men who bought or rented them. Two-thirds of the women interviewed had been used up to 300 men. A third of the women had been used by between 400 to a thousand men for sex.
One has to wonder if the national media will pick up on this story.
posted July 13, 2011 6:20 pm edt
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