Conference asks, “what are you going to do now?”

THE TORONTO STAR
Beverley Jacobs has heard all the talk, she’s ready for action.

The 46-year-old president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada – an affiliation of more than a dozen women’s groups representing 600,000 native women in this country – kicks off a three-day conference in Yellowknife today with the question, “What are you going to do now?”

Violence against women, gender bias, and conflict with the law will all be discussed by the more than 150 delegates, with an eye to finding solutions, she says.

Complete article

Conference asks, “what are you going to do now?”

THE TORONTO STAR
Beverley Jacobs has heard all the talk, she’s ready for action.

The 46-year-old president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada – an affiliation of more than a dozen women’s groups representing 600,000 native women in this country – kicks off a three-day conference in Yellowknife today with the question, “What are you going to do now?”

Violence against women, gender bias, and conflict with the law will all be discussed by the more than 150 delegates, with an eye to finding solutions, she says.

Complete article

Mariane Pearl article on Native American women victims of rape

The land where rapists walk free – Glamour Magazine, August 2008

“Women would be appalled if they knew about this outrage.”

Why are men who rape Native American women getting away with it? Mariane Pearl, widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, finds out–and meets the hero who’s helping victims heal.

The Fort Randall Casino and Hotel, near the town of Lake Andes, South Dakota, stands like a mirage amid nothing but miles and miles of fields. Only the occasional antiabortion sign or wild turkey crossing the road breaks the monotony of the vast landscape. As I settle into my hotel room, I hear a woman panting loudly next door. A man’s voice comes through the paper-thin wall: “Bitch,” he says. Then the TV goes on.

Owned and operated by the Yankton Sioux tribe, the casino is open 24 hours a day and is the main employer for the 6,000 Native Americans who live on the Yankton Sioux reservation, partially located in Charles Mix County. Still, poverty is rampant: Unemployment among South Dakota tribes averages 70 percent. In the streets, I see no children playing, no elders rocking on their porches, no bookstore or flower shop, and just one tiny grocery store. You can always find a drink, though–sadly, alcohol abuse is a widespread scourge.

But I’ve come here to report on another tragedy that gets far too little attention: According to U.S. Justice Department figures, more than one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and they are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than non-Native women. And these estimates are widely assumed to be low because so many rapes go unreported. “We found anecdotally that the rates could be much, much higher,” says Trine Christensen, a senior researcher with Amnesty International, which published a groundbreaking report on Native women and sexual violence last year. As Charon Asetoyer, an activist on the Yankton Sioux reservation, puts it, “The bottom line is that it’s open season on Native women. Nearly every woman on the reservation has been affected.”
Because of underfunded health services, inadequate law enforcement response and jurisdictional confusion between tribal and U.S. courts, few of these rapes are even investigated, much less prosecuted. No data exists on how many cases go to trial, but Amnesty International and other activists agree: Perpetrators are walking free. “This place is heaven for serial rapists,” Charon says. “Our daughters’ lives are being taken from us.”

Charon, 57, has dedicated her life to fighting brutality against Native women. A Comanche, she founded the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center on the Yankton Sioux Nation’s land–the first of its kind on any reservation when she started it in 1985. Charon’s center is the first place women contact after being attacked, if they seek help at all. “When a victim calls, we’ll either meet her at the emergency room, or take her there ourselves,” Charon says. Her center connects victims with attorneys, acts as an advocate with doctors and law enforcement agencies, and may provide victims with shelter, counseling and child care.

These days, Charon is also traveling the country as an advocate for Native women, speaking to conferences and government officials, including the United Nations. Charon has a soft face and a soothing voice, but she’s also got the iron will needed to break the silence about abuse and injustice: “Our human rights are violated every day,” she says, “and there is very little being done to protect us.”  Complete article

Goldberg and Washburn: Lies, damn lies, and crime statistics

Goldberg and Washburn: Lies, damn lies, and crime statistics

Indian Country Today
Are American Indians more often victims of crime than members of other ethnic and racial groups? Are most of the offenses committed against them committed by non-Indians, as opposed to members of their own group? Ever since the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics began issuing reports on this subject in 2000, the clear answer to both of those questions has seemed to be ”yes.”

Now the South Dakota attorney general and researchers at the University of South Dakota have challenged that conclusion, issuing a report that focuses on only one state but questions the Indian data nationally. Their challenge to the federal data is much too quick to dismiss the BJS findings.

Over the past eight years, the BJS, which is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, has released some startling figures. Although American Indians are .9 percent of the total population, they represent 1.4 percent of all crime victims, a very significant overrepresentation. At least two-thirds of all crimes against Indians, and 80 percent of all sexual assaults, are committed by non-Indians.

Indian women, according to BJS data, are 2.5 times more likely than non-Indian women to be raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetimes.

These statistics have been difficult to ignore. Tribes and Native women’s groups have raised them before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in order to secure greater support for Indian country criminal justice initiatives. Amnesty International included some of those statistics in a much broader analysis of sexual assault of Indian women in the United States, and used case studies from Indian country to make their point.

The BJS statistics do have some limitations. They are based primarily on nationwide victimization surveys, administered through interviews of individuals at a nationally representative number of households. These data fail to distinguish between Indian reservations and other rural and urban settings. The BJS victimization data encompasses the more than 60 percent of all Indians who live outside reservations, including large urban Indian populations in places such as Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Indians represent a tiny percentage of the population in such areas, so high percentages of victimization by non-Indians would be expected. Furthermore, 2000 Census data indicates that nearly 55 percent of all Native women marry non-Indians, a greater rate of out-marriage than other racial groups. Under such circumstances, domestic violence would predictably be an interracial event.

But the South Dakota study goes much further in contesting the BJS figures. Using data from crime reports, arrests and prosecutions in the federal and state systems in South Dakota, it claims that Indian country crime is mainly an Indian-against-Indian phenomenon. The report confirms the BJS point that Indians are disproportionately victimized by crime compared with other groups. For example, Indians were 64 percent of the intentional homicide victims according to the South Dakota study, yet only 8.3 percent of the state population. But the South Dakota researchers also argue that Indians are the main crime perpetrators, making crime against Indians in that state intra-racial rather than interracial.

The big difference between the BJS crime figures and the South Dakota numbers is the sources of crime data. The BJS relied on direct interviews with individual crime victims, on the assumption that some crimes will go unreported. The South Dakota report asserts that victimization surveys are unreliable, and therefore the researchers there rely only on crime reports to official agencies. Remarkably, the South Dakota researchers claim that reports by victims are not ”actual crime data” and their research refuses to supplement the police data with data from victims of crime.

In considering reports by victims of crime, BJS has the more reliable approach. For Indian country generally, and for South Dakota especially, exclusive reliance on official crime reports is a serious problem.

Rape, which is one of the crimes the South Dakota report highlights, is a notoriously underreported crime everywhere and for all groups. We would expect even greater underreporting of rape and sexual assault against Indian women in South Dakota, particularly where the perpetrator is non-Indian. Due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, Indian nations have lost control over arrests and prosecutions of non-Indian assailants. Other decisions by the Supreme Court have disestablished considerable reservation territory in South Dakota, eliminating Indian country status. As a result, Native victims in South Dakota must depend on the state and federal systems to bring non-Indian perpetrators to justice.

Yet Indian women may wonder whether they should bother to report the crimes committed against them. Reservation residents in that state regularly complain that the BIA, FBI and federal prosecutors decline to prosecute crimes committed in Indian country. Even if tribal police are specially commissioned to carry out federal law enforcement responsibilities, there are too few of them, spread too thin around vast reservations. AI has shown how deficient the physical examinations and evidence collection have been for rape victims who must rely on the IHS.

Outside Indian country, Native women victimized by non-Indians confront a state system they perceive to be biased against them. And these women can point to considerable support for their view. Indians in South Dakota have recently prevailed in lawsuits brought under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, proving discrimination against them in the design of county voting districts. In 2000, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued a report documenting charges of discrimination against Indians in that state. The bottom line is this: If Indian women do not believe that their reports will be investigated, they are much less likely to report them.

The SCIA has recently released a draft bill designed to enhance the administration of criminal justice in Indian country. One of the sections of that bill focuses on improved crime data collection, a real need. Until we have better data, it would be a mistake to accept the conclusions of the South Dakota study which ignores data from crime victims.

Carole Goldberg is a Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California – Los Angeles. Kevin Washburn, Chickasaw Nation, is a Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arizona. They are co-principal investigators on a $1.45 million grant to examine the administration of criminal justice in Indian country, and both serve as co-editors and co-authors of Felix Cohen’s ”Handbook of Federal Indian Law.”

Raping drunk women: social norm and “just a habit” in rural Alaksa

Six assaults in small community include two rapes
Bristol Bay Times (ALASKA)

July 03, 2008

Police in Dillingham investigated six incidents in June determined to be sexual assaults. Of these, two involved multiple assailants.

“We’re such a small community, and it’s very unusual,” said Ginger Baim, director of Safe and Fear-Free Environment, or SAFE, a shelter and advocacy group for survivors of violence.

“We’ve had six sexual assaults in three weeks, of adult women that were reported to police, and we’ve had another equal number that were not reported to police.”

Baim said that although she’s noticed spikes in sexual assault just before and after the fishing season, she can’t remember seeing one of this magnitude or involving incidents with multiple attackers.

Dillingham Police Chief Richard Thompson said that in the first recent sexual assault report to police involving multiple assailants, reported June 17, the victim received a head wound.

The victim reported three suspects were involved, with one primary assailant, he said.

In the second instance, reported June 19, the victim reported four males had raped her and had used condoms.

Police say they’ve identified four suspects and identified two as having had sex with the victim. The police dispatch documentation on that case indicates two males were taken to a hospital for an examination to collect DNA evidence.

The police document also states the victim reported the suspects took pictures of the sexual assault.

Thompson said police have been working diligently on the sexual assault investigations.

Meanwhile, rumors have been spreading through Dillingham about the assaults.

Thompson said this has made gathering legitimate information through police interviews of potential witnesses more difficult.

“Person ‘x’ will say to person ‘y,’ ‘Did you hear what happened to so-and-so, I was driving to go see my aunt and I heard about this,’” Thompson said. “Well person ‘y’ will tell person ‘z.’ ‘Did you hear what happened to so-and-so, person ‘x’ was driving by and saw it happen. We have to follow up those rumors. We don’t have a choice; they might have valid information.”

Baim said the incidents are known about town and have people concerned for their safety. Both Baim and Thompson advised people to exercise awareness of their own safety when in public and to use a buddy system to stay safer.

Baim said many Dillingham residents have been concerned about the reported sexual assaults involving multiple attackers because of the level of violence and force involved. She said that’s unusual for this small town. She said people are also concerned because the suspects are rumored to be males from outside the town.

Thompson confirmed one victim in these two cases is local to Dillingham, and one is local to the region; and that in both cases, the suspects were not known to the victim or not local.

He also said there’s no reason at this time in investigation to believe that the two incidents are linked or the result of a single set of attackers.

Although the reported sexual assaults involving multiple assailants has created the most stir in town, Thompson and Baim both point out that the majority of sexual assaults in Dillingham involve acquaintance rape — where the victim knows the assailant. Alcohol is almost always a factor, they said.

Even without the two incidents involving multiple attackers, June still saw a higher number of sexual assaults, Baim said. Thompson noted other spikes in sexual assaults that have occurred in Dillingham over the last seven-year period, and they’re not necessarily correlated with periods just prior to or after the fishing season.

“These things tend to come along in clusters,” Thompson said. “I don’t know why.”

Baim and Thompson said sexual assaults reflect a lack of respect for others and self on the part of the assailant.

“In rural Alaska and in Bristol Bay, we have a social norm that says when a woman gets drunk and passes out a party, it’s OK to have sex on her,” Baim said. “It’s not planned; it’s just a habit. That in no way diminishes the terrible harm it does. And it’s not a blaming thing, it’s just a habit — I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Thompson said that while most sexual assaults reported to police involve alcohol, nothing excuses the criminal act.

“Our cases move forward to prosecution without regard for who is how intoxicated,” Thompson said. “As far as I’m concerned you can get as (drunk) as you like, and no one has the right to predate on you.

“Every citizen has the right, unless restrained by the court, to be intoxicated to whatever extent they choose,” he added.

However, he strongly cautioned people to take measures that reduce their vulnerability to predation from sexual assault.

“We all have an obligation to maintain enough awareness regarding our own safety, that we can at least ask for help,” he said. “It makes sense to provide for our own safety by having a buddy plan. If you’re going to go out drinking, go with a friend.

Don’t just wander off by yourself.”
Bristol Bay Times

Raping drunk women: social norm and “just a habit” in rural Alaksa

Six assaults in small community include two rapes
Bristol Bay Times (ALASKA)

July 03, 2008

Police in Dillingham investigated six incidents in June determined to be sexual assaults. Of these, two involved multiple assailants.

“We’re such a small community, and it’s very unusual,” said Ginger Baim, director of Safe and Fear-Free Environment, or SAFE, a shelter and advocacy group for survivors of violence.

“We’ve had six sexual assaults in three weeks, of adult women that were reported to police, and we’ve had another equal number that were not reported to police.”

Baim said that although she’s noticed spikes in sexual assault just before and after the fishing season, she can’t remember seeing one of this magnitude or involving incidents with multiple attackers.

Dillingham Police Chief Richard Thompson said that in the first recent sexual assault report to police involving multiple assailants, reported June 17, the victim received a head wound.

The victim reported three suspects were involved, with one primary assailant, he said.

In the second instance, reported June 19, the victim reported four males had raped her and had used condoms.

Police say they’ve identified four suspects and identified two as having had sex with the victim. The police dispatch documentation on that case indicates two males were taken to a hospital for an examination to collect DNA evidence.

The police document also states the victim reported the suspects took pictures of the sexual assault.

Thompson said police have been working diligently on the sexual assault investigations.

Meanwhile, rumors have been spreading through Dillingham about the assaults.

Thompson said this has made gathering legitimate information through police interviews of potential witnesses more difficult.

“Person ‘x’ will say to person ‘y,’ ‘Did you hear what happened to so-and-so, I was driving to go see my aunt and I heard about this,’” Thompson said. “Well person ‘y’ will tell person ‘z.’ ‘Did you hear what happened to so-and-so, person ‘x’ was driving by and saw it happen. We have to follow up those rumors. We don’t have a choice; they might have valid information.”

Baim said the incidents are known about town and have people concerned for their safety. Both Baim and Thompson advised people to exercise awareness of their own safety when in public and to use a buddy system to stay safer.

Baim said many Dillingham residents have been concerned about the reported sexual assaults involving multiple attackers because of the level of violence and force involved. She said that’s unusual for this small town. She said people are also concerned because the suspects are rumored to be males from outside the town.

Thompson confirmed one victim in these two cases is local to Dillingham, and one is local to the region; and that in both cases, the suspects were not known to the victim or not local.

He also said there’s no reason at this time in investigation to believe that the two incidents are linked or the result of a single set of attackers.

Although the reported sexual assaults involving multiple assailants has created the most stir in town, Thompson and Baim both point out that the majority of sexual assaults in Dillingham involve acquaintance rape — where the victim knows the assailant. Alcohol is almost always a factor, they said.

Even without the two incidents involving multiple attackers, June still saw a higher number of sexual assaults, Baim said. Thompson noted other spikes in sexual assaults that have occurred in Dillingham over the last seven-year period, and they’re not necessarily correlated with periods just prior to or after the fishing season.

“These things tend to come along in clusters,” Thompson said. “I don’t know why.”

Baim and Thompson said sexual assaults reflect a lack of respect for others and self on the part of the assailant.

“In rural Alaska and in Bristol Bay, we have a social norm that says when a woman gets drunk and passes out a party, it’s OK to have sex on her,” Baim said. “It’s not planned; it’s just a habit. That in no way diminishes the terrible harm it does. And it’s not a blaming thing, it’s just a habit — I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Thompson said that while most sexual assaults reported to police involve alcohol, nothing excuses the criminal act.

“Our cases move forward to prosecution without regard for who is how intoxicated,” Thompson said. “As far as I’m concerned you can get as (drunk) as you like, and no one has the right to predate on you.

“Every citizen has the right, unless restrained by the court, to be intoxicated to whatever extent they choose,” he added.

However, he strongly cautioned people to take measures that reduce their vulnerability to predation from sexual assault.

“We all have an obligation to maintain enough awareness regarding our own safety, that we can at least ask for help,” he said. “It makes sense to provide for our own safety by having a buddy plan. If you’re going to go out drinking, go with a friend.

Don’t just wander off by yourself.”
Bristol Bay Times