"The justice system is invisible, unable to deter or heal."
July 6, 2012 1:51 PM   Subscribe

In July 2007, NPR published a two part series (direct links: 1, 2) about a four year old uninvestigated rape case at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Sparked in part by a 2006 report (pdf) from Amnesty International that included a startling statistic: "One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime," NPR's investigation led to the reopening of the case and Congressional hearings. In February 2011, Harper's published an update of sorts: Tiny Little Laws: A Plague of Sexual Violence in Indian Country (Via)
posted by zarq (13 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The full text of the statistic quoted from the Amnesty International report linked in the post, Maze of Injustice, reads as follows:
Over the past decade, federal government studies have consistently shown that American Indian and Alaska Native women experience much higher levels of sexual violence than other women in the USA. Data gathered by the US Department of Justice indicates that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general. A US Department of Justice study on violence against women concluded that 34.1 per cent of American Indian and Alaska Native women – or more than one in three – will be raped during their lifetime; the comparable figure for the USA as a whole is less than one in five. Shocking though these statistics are, it is widely believed that they do not accurately portray the extent of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.

posted by zarq at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's very kind of you to say. Thanks. :)
posted by zarq at 2:00 PM on July 6, 2012

A friend of mine was a tribal prosecutor, albeit not on this reservation. He had some awful stories about the things he'd seen. Thanks for this post.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:08 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The 2007 story was by Laura Sullivan, who also produced last fall's story on native american foster care problems in SD. She has, rightly so, won a bunch of awards for both pieces.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:28 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that one of the reasons that the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is being held up (in addition to recognition of violence in same-sex situations and against illegal immigrants) is the expansion to cover tribal jurisdictions. Three guesses as to who's holding it up, and the first two don't count.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:51 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Blasdelb's post on Vanguard last year linked to "Rape on the Reservation" a pretty heartrending piece on rape at Rosebud, a Sioux Reservation in South Dakota
posted by ChuraChura at 2:54 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of the story of Pretty Bird Woman House, a women's shelter on the Standing Rock reservation. It was saved by a funding drive, then broken into and vandalized, then saved again by another drive.

They don't seem to have a current website, or I'd like there, but their story is easy to Google and was featured on Daily Kos.
posted by emjaybee at 3:01 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also somewhat similar, the post about the situation in Nunavut.
posted by palbo at 3:06 PM on July 6, 2012

“Who gave you permission to come here and talk to people without getting permission?” Four Dance asked me when I reached him by phone.

With this, one can see why getting to the bottom of the story has been so difficult.
posted by three blind mice at 3:30 PM on July 6, 2012

No minority has been beaten down quite as long and hard as the Sioux nation. I grew up in South Dakota in the mid-fifties and sixties, and Native Americans were at the very bottom of the social pecking order. Of the five kids I grew up with, one died serving a life sentence for murder, one died of kidney failure, one was killed in dark Minneapolis alley over a drug deal gone bad, and one became a minister. The fifth one I've lost track of over time and distance. Their lives were very hard and it was difficult for a white middle-class kid like me to fathom what they faced, even when they told me explicitly. That Native women face such a high rate of sexual trauma does not surprise me given that they're afflicted with just about every other social ill in disproportionate measure. I don't know what we can do to fix what we've done to that race. They can't go back to their culture and we have blocked their entry into ours. They're caught in limbo.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:05 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

zombieflanders: "It's worth noting that one of the reasons that the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is being held up (in addition to recognition of violence in same-sex situations and against illegal immigrants) is the expansion to cover tribal jurisdictions. Three guesses as to who's holding it up, and the first two don't count"

I assume you're referring to the Republicans. Is this because of the same-sex thing? I can't imagine that the Republicans care much about tribal jurisdictions.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:32 PM on July 6, 2012

There's another statistic in there worth quoting:
According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men. The Department’s data on sexual violence against non-Native women, in contrast, shows that for non-Indigenous victims, sexual violence is usually committed within an individual’s own race.
This has been known for a while; Amnesty's report isn't the first. In the "Encyclopedia of Rape", published in 2004, Merril D. Smith cites a 1999 US Department of Justice report that found "that American Indians were victims of rape at 3.5 times the rate of other racial groups", and that "unlike other racial groups, someone of another race assaulted 90% of Native American rape victims" (p.138).

Why so few Native American perpetrators? I did my Masters thesis on creation myths, focusing on how feminine and masculine principles are always balanced and equal at the very beginning (whether Greek, Scandinavian, or Native American); only acts of great violence and assertions of power mark the beginning of patriarchal values. The difference with Scandinavian mythology to a certain extent, and especially Native American mythology (practically the entire continent's various mythologies show the same tendencies), is that when violence is asserted, it is only viewed positively when the violence is towards a constructive, egalitarian end. Myths where women or men are wantonly destroyed are warnings, not held as models of societal gender values (as opposed to Adam and Eve; Pandora). In the same "Encyclopedia of Rape", Smith confirms how those egalitarian values contributed to societies where rape was unacceptable (emphasis hers):
Because they considered rape to be an egregious violation, most Native societies harshly punished rapists. While the method and severity of punishment varied among tribes, most communities considered rape a crime against the victim, and the perpetrator was obliged to make peace with her and her kin. Thus, victims, often accompanied by their female kin or village women, meted out punishment collectively, or the survivor could accept payment as a retribution. Most Native societies do not seem to have punished or ostracized the victim, but victims in cultures that valued virginity and chastity in women as an expression of familial honor, including many Plains tribes, could have suffered a loss in status.
As to this: "They're caught in limbo." While it is good to finally recognize and increase awareness of the plights of Native Americans wrought by colonial and patriarchal attitudes that persist today, this kind of "they're helpless" statement is not helpful. It only continues to perpetrate the idea that they are not survivors, but victims. That benevolent non-natives can deem them victims and define their potential is simply another side to colonial, patronizing (patriarchal) attitudes. They have their own agency; they are survivors. They don't need "white knights" to rescue them, they need dialogue of the sort they have been asking for ever since settlers arrived on the continent. Non-natives could do that simply by shutting down those "I know better" voices and listening to what Native societies say they need. So much of the time, the reason that doesn't happen is because non-Natives with power know that their power is based, literally, on repressing the life and wealth stolen from Natives. They know that listening to Native societies and taking them seriously would mean recognizing the non-native greatest weakness: nothing non-natives have is truly theirs. And this touches every single one of us who is not native in North America, in one way or another. That's – for a poignant metaphor given the subject – a very big Pandora's box to open. Saying "oh, Native Americans are stuck in limbo" is simply another facile way of keeping the lock on that box closed; of shunting responsibility onto the scapegoat. If we want minorities to stop being victimized in the US, each of us has to begin to recognize these scapegoating tactics, accept that we have participated in them, and in so doing, finally open an honest, non-ignorant dialogue towards resolving thorny issues.

There is a wealth of Native American thought and literature on their own past, present, and what they envision for their future. If you could start with just one book related to the current subject, I'd recommend this collection of stories: "Spider Woman's Granddaughters" by Paula Gunn Allen. Follow the threads in it for more wonderful voices.
posted by fraula at 2:12 AM on July 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

I assume you're referring to the Republicans. Is this because of the same-sex thing? I can't imagine that the Republicans care much about tribal jurisdictions.

Actually, they do, for some of the tired old state's rights issues, as well as fear that tribes will abuse the ability to prosecute non-tribal offenders. Nasty stuff, IMO.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:09 PM on July 7, 2012

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