Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - Testimony heard yesterday before the US Committee on Indian Affairs about violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women was disturbing and disconcerting.
Minnesota US Senator Al Franken, a member of the committee and who called for the hearing, said violence against women to be at epidemic proportions.
The fact that one of three American Indian and Alaska Native females will be raped in their lifetime came up several times during the entire hearing. This tragic statistic was just part of the testimony at the hearing, called "Native Women: Protecting, Shielding, and Safeguarding Our Sisters, Mothers and Daughters," will cover three issues of violence perpetrated against American Indian and Alaska Native women:
Unfortunately, only 50 percent of the cases of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women are ever prosecuted. And when they are prosecuted and a conviction is made, the criminal only faces a maximum of three years in prison or jail.
Poignant testimony was made about sex trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native women by Sarah Deer, Muskogee /Creek, associate professor at the William Mitchell College of Law. Part of her testimony:
"Crimes of sexual violence are often undocumented and known to be underreported - and due to the nature of trafficking and prostitution, current understanding and analysis of just how widespread and severe the problems are known to be partial at best. We advocate for a future hearing that focuses specifically on the issues of prostitution and trafficking of Native women. We believe that several Native women could speak to you about their experience and the failures of the system to address the ongoing systemic discrimination that they have faced."
Sherry Sanchez Tibbetts
Sherry Sanchez Tibbetts, executive director of the American Indian Community Housing Organization, based in Duluth, Minnesota testified that almost half the clients entering her agency for services to initially seek housing needs were later determined to be victims of sex trafficking or been involved with prostitution:
"In 2008, we found that 46 percent of all the women connected to an American Indian Community Housing Organization program had been involved in trafficking or prostitution. When staff realized that nearly one out of every two women who were in our office on regular basis had been commercially sexually exploited, they were shocked. Most of those women had not presented as 'trafficking victims,' though some had admitted that they had entered into prostitution or started 'hooking' when they were twelve or thirteen years old. The women seeking services at American Indian Community Housing Organization had come to our offices from other community programs, reservations, and the streets. They presented as 'just homeless' or in need of shelter after their 'boyfriend had beat them,' and only later acknowledged that their 'boyfriend' had actually trafficked or forced them into prostitution."
posted July 15, 2011 11:57 am edt
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