Article Highlights Sexual Violence against Native American Women

An article in the New York Times today investigated the high rate of sexual violence against Native American Women, an issue that is receiving more attention in light of the debate over the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA). On May 16 in a 222-205 vote, the US House of Representatives passed a version of VAWA that did not include protections found in the Senate version, such as those for LGBT, immigrant, and Native American victims of domestic or sexual violence.

American Indian women are raped or sexually assaulted at a higher rate than other American women, though the US Department of Justice does not have exact statistics because many police departments have failed to keep proper records, according to the New York Times report. The New York Times says that within the Navajo Nation, located in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, 329 cases of rape were reported in 2007 in the population of 180,000. There have only been 17 arrests. Nationwide, arrests are made in only 13 percent of cases of rape of Native American women. Arrests are made in 35 percent of cases of rape of black women and in 32 percent of cases of rape of white women.

A woman’s health advocate from the Yankton Sioux Reservation, located in South Dakota, told the New York Times that “we should never have a woman come into the office saying, ‘I need to learn more about Plan B for when my daughter gets raped.’ That’s what’s so frightening- that it’s more expected than unexpected. It has become a norm for young women.” Another women’s health advocate in the Navajo Nation said, “I only know a couple of people who have not been raped. Out of hundreds.”

New York Times 5/22/12, Feminist Daily News Wire 5/17/12

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