Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
Victims of Prostitution
SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA - The cover of the report shows a Native women covered with an Indian blanket with names of flowers and trees superimposed throughout. Names like: Daisy, Pine, Birch, Daffodil, Sagebrush, Rose Mallow and on and on. Those were the names used to camouflage the true identities of victims of prostitution and sex trafficking in Minnesota.
"Many tribal spiritual beliefs include a great reverence and respect for plants, flowers and herbs," reads in part the Procedure section of the "Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota" explaining the methodology used to retain the anonymity while still honoring the lives and stories of the 105 Native women interviewed. "Thus, each our interviews were identified by a flower it also provides a metaphor for how we see the women as beautiful and worthy of support and protection."
The "Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota" report released yesterday afternoon is the excellent research work of the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education.
The following are direct quotes from Native women who were prostituted and trafficked in Minnesota. The words are their words. You will hear their voices:
"It's like incest - no one wants to talk about it."
"As far as I'm concerned, all prostitution is rape."
"After you get into prostitution, you get used to it; it's like using the bathroom. You don't think about it after a while, it takes all your feeling of being a woman away."
"Prostitution is dangerous. It's like suicide."
"I wouldn't say there are pimps anymore. Now they're all boyfriends."
"When a man looks at a prostitute and a Native woman, he looks at them the same: 'dirty'."
"There's times I'd walk around in a space-out because when I stop and think about reality I break down and can't handle it."
"A john said to me, 'I thought we killed all of you'. "
"Women like myself need someone they feel they can trust without being judged by how they lived their life. We didn't wake up and choose to become a whore or a hooker or a 'ho as they call us. We need someone to understand where we came from and how we lived and that half of us were raped, beat, and made to sell our bodies. We need people with hearts."
"Back then I was not connected to my cultural identity. I thought prostitution was normal living."
"My auntie tried to help - she would talk to me, get me involved in women's groups, took me to sweats."
"I'm reunited with my birth mom. I'm the only kid that dances with my mom - she made me an outfit by hand."
This excerpt contains the recommendations made in the report:
Prostitution is a sexually exploitive, often violent economic option most often entered into by those with a lengthy history of sexual, racial and economic victimization. Prostitution is only now beginning to be understood as violence against women and children. It has rarely been included in discussions of sexual violence against Native women. It is crucial to understand the sexual exploitation of Native women in prostitution today in its historical context of colonial violence against nations.
In order for a woman to have the real choice to exit prostitution, a range of services must be offered yet there are currently few or no available services especially designed for Native women in prostitution.
We recommend increased state and federal funding for transitional and long term housing for Native women and others seeking to escape prostitution. We recommend increased funding for Native women's programs, including advocacy, physical and mental health care, job training and placement, legal services, and research on these topics.
We urge state, local, and tribal officials to review and reconsider their policies toward victims of prostitution and trafficking, including this new research about Native women. The arrest and prosecution of victims is counter-productive and exacerbates their problems. As a Native woman interviewed for this research study said, "We need people with hearts." Arresting sex buyers, not their victims, is a more appropriate policy.
posted October 28, 2011 10:40 am edt
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