Lets’ end sexual abuse, violence on Native women
By Gerrison Joe
When you think of the term sex abuse and violence, does it make you worry about who is affected? What about the terms “rape,” “assault” and “sex trafficking?”
Do you have any idea what “missing and murdered Indigenous women” means? I never knew what that meant until I began to understand the mistreatment of Native American women.
There is a concern that Native American and Indigenous women face a high rate of sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking in Indian Country.
Indian Country is all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. It also refers to Indian communities within the borders of the United States whether within the original or subsequently acquired territory thereof, and whether within or without the limits of a state, and all Indian allotments.
What measures should Native American leaders take to address the high rates of sexual assault and abuse of Native women? Native American leaders need better police force, judicial systems, and counseling services for women.
Native American women are victims of rape and other sexual violence in America. It seems that more than one in four Native American women will be raped within her lifetime, and nearly half of all Native American women will experience sexual violence other than rape with their lifetime.
“In the 1999 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, American Indian Crime, it found that sexual assault among Native Americans is 3.5 times higher than for all other races living in the United States.”
Alcohol and drugs affect Indigenous people because it leads to domestic violence on reservations. Native Americans also deal with hardship, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse. Native men also abuse and rape their wives and girlfriends.
It seems that Native women are afraid to tell their family, a friend, and someone about their abuse, and they must hide to protect their privacy. Women who are abused and raped by their husbands or boyfriends feel trapped inside, as mentioned in a report from the Indian Health Service, and it states that Native women are afraid to talk about their feelings and abuse during their hospital visits.
It is discouraging to hear Native women say that it is a taboo to talk about one’s abuse to another person. I had experience of seeing other Native women being mistreated, heard stories about my relatives being abused and raped by their boyfriend, and seeing other women being yelled at by their men in public places.
Men are to blame for abusing their women because they are a dominant figure in society. Men also tend to be more aggressive and powerful over women. Sexual abuse on Native women is a disease of the outside people. Native American men get their ideas of abuse from watching other men do it, and when they see violence happen in other places.
For this, Intimate Partner Violence is one of the most serious issues facing Native American women living in urban areas in the city and on American Indian reservations. Studies prove that Intimate Partner Violence is not a part of the traditional ways of life for Native Americans but is a problem that was brought by colonization and the introduction of alcohol to Native communities and reservations.
The mistreatment of American Indians in the past has influenced Anglo men to sexually abuse Native American women.
According to Alix Bruce, “The concept of Native and Indigenous women being pressured or captured into sex trafficking has a long history in the United States. In the beginning time with Christopher Columbus capturing and selling young girls in the Caribbean for his sailors’ sexual gratification in the misnamed ‘New World,’ Indigenous women have been particularly vulnerable to human trafficking – also known as sex trafficking.”
There is a concern that human trafficking on American Indians is often portrayed as the issue of sex trafficking. It seems that Native men are being caught engaging in labor trafficking with Indigenous women. Anglo men and Indigenous men are known to have long-term fetishization and sexualization on Indigenous women on the media and for that reason sex trafficking has been on the rise across the country. Indigenous women in the U.S. have been portrayed as either sexually aggressive “Poca-Hotties” or the erotic, available “rez girl” in fetish porn. Non-Native men engage in human trafficking activities with Native women.
I strongly agree that Native American leaders need better police force, judicial systems and counseling services for women. Indigenous women also need shelters for battered woman and children, crisis hotlines, and support groups. We need community programs that will provide traditional healing, culture awareness, safety, and change for women.
I must also stress that stronger laws are needed to keep accused sexual offenders away from victims. There is also an urgent need for trained advocates who can listen and understand the needs of victims. Lastly, the Indian Health Service on reservations need specially trained sexual assault examiners and sexual assault response teams, as they have been shown to enhance the quality of care for survivors of sexual assault, collect forensic evidence, and they can further the prosecution of cases of justice system.
Let us urge our tribal leaders, council delegates and advocates to implement better laws to protect Native American women. We need our voices to be heard. It is up to us to protect our sisters, mothers, aunts and friends.
Native Americans deserve to walk in peace and in harmony.
Or should I say in Navajo, “Native women deserve to walk in beauty, and you and I can walk in beauty.”
Gerrison Joe is Zuni/Red Running Into Water and was born for Towering House Clan. His maternal grandfather is Meadow People Clan. His paternal grandfather is Red House Clan. He was born and raised in Greasewood Springs, Arizona. He is a legal secretary for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and is a part-time student with the University of Arizona pursuing a bachelor’s degree.