Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
Let's End the Violence
These days - it seems - the news is all about celebrity. Whether the outlandish antics of Charlie Sheen or criminal activity of Lindsay Lohan, the celebrity gets the headlines.
Last Friday, the news broke about Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony splitting up commanded headlines across the national newspapers from "The New York Times" to "The Los Angeles Times." The entertainment television news channels covered it endlessly during the weekend.
On Thursday, there was poignant testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs that discussed the fact that one in three Native women will be raped during her lifetime. Also, revealed was the startling news that sex trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native females in Minnesota and Alaska is out of control.
Unfortunately, no mainstream news publication made a headline of the disturbing Senate hearing.
Actually, the news about one in three Indian women being raped during their lifetime is not new news. The story was originally released in a 2005 Congressional report, with very little reporting. But, it is still news because nothing has changed in six years.
As sordid as it is, the fact that one in three Native women will be raped during their lifetime is big news and the story must be told. The rape victims may be our mothers, aunts or sisters. Violence against anyone is horrible. Violence against Native women is too close to home for any of us.
Think about this: if one of three Caucasian women were to be raped during their lifetime, the media would be all over the story and public outcry would demand remedies to stop rape.
Rape is rape whether it committed against a Caucasian women or Native women. Skin color does not matter, nor should it matter. Public outrage should be happening on behalf of our Native women.
Native women deserve to be treated with honor and respect. Historically, they have been abused throughout colonial times. We know they have been the backbone of our Native communities.
As ugly and disgusting the news of sex trafficking among American Indian and Alaska Native women may be, the story must be told. Some of the victims are as young as twelve and thirteen years old.
While the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing shed light on the sordid details of violence against Native females, complete with the ugliness, the senators did not offer solutions. Their role at Thursday's hearing was to collect information regarding violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.
While this is true, the United States Senate should react quickly. The Senate must write stricter laws against the perpetrators of violence in Indian Country against our Native women. Unfortunately, in the most heinous crimes - rape and even murder - the maximum punishment a convicted non-Indian can be given on an Indian reservation is three years of imprisonment.
Only last year, the maximum time a convicted criminal can be given went from one to three years when committed on an Indian reservation. This is a gross injustice. It is no wonder, so many incidences of violence against Native women go unreported. The woman may have to deal with the convicted perpetrators in three short years again.
While the Senate has its responsibilities, we, American Indians and Alaska Natives, have our own responsibilities to our females. We should not rely on the government alone to solve the rampant violence against our females.
We must work harder to make the living conditions free of violence. We must do it for this and future generations.
The problem about violence against Native women is way more serious than anything Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan do.
posted July 19, 2011 12:00 pm edt
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