Friday, May 7, 2010

Alaska Native Women are Twice as Likely to be Raped as non-Native Alaskan women

Images of three women: J, survivor of 
sexual violence; Cindy Pennington, chair of the Alaska Native Women's 
Sexual Assault Committee; Winona Flying Earth, from Bridges Against 
Domestic ViolenceJ, survivor of sexual violence; Cindy Pennington, chair of the Alaska Native Women's Sexual Assault Committee; Winona Flying Earth, from Bridges Against Domestic Violence (BADV). © A. Nadel.

Violence against Native American and Alaska Native Women

See *here* for a report on the rape rates against Indigenous North American women, which is where the photographs above are from. With thanks to Samhita, and many thanks for all the work being done by Sarah Deer, what follows is a cross post from Feministe *here*.

Native Women in Alaska Are Twice as Likely to Experience Sexual Assault.

This is a fairly grim statistic found by the Urban Indian Health Initiative in a study released this week titled Reproductive Health of Urban American Indian and Alaska Native Women (pdf).

From the report introduction by Sarah Deer (Muscogee Creek) Assistant Professor,
Advocates for Native women may not be surprised by many of these findings, but this report confirms what many have been saying for years: Native women continue to be socially, economically, and physically marginalized by a society that doesn't prioritize and sometimes doesn't even acknowledge the realities of their lives. This report also makes crucial connections between violence and health. Violence against Native women is a public health crisis, and the urban experience has not received the same degree of attention as that on reservations and rural tribal communities.
Amnesty International found a similar statistic a few years ago which found that Native Alaskan women were 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in their life. This new study further compounds this evidence and makes clear the role that violence plays in the lives of these women. Evidence this quantifiable indicates a systemic problem with lack of resources, cycles of crime, lack of legal attention or resources and lack of health services.

The study also found trends in how Native Alaskan women are using sterilization for birth control. Via the Associated Press,
Another finding that stunned researchers was the rate at which women chose sterilization -- 34 percent -- compared with whites at 20 percent. Also prevalent among young Native women between the ages of 15 and 24 was the use of the injectable long-lasting hormonal contraceptive Depo-Provera, which researchers say can cause weight gain. That's a possible health risk for American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are three times more likely to die from diabetes.
If Native Alaskan and Indigenous women are being sexually assaulted, often before the age of 15, at a rate 2 times the national average then it is an epidemic, it is a health crisis and it is an extension of systematic violence that can't be ignored.

Posted by Samhita - May 06, 2010


Sarah said...

I wonder if comporable statistics could be extracted by isolating other marginalized or underprivileged groups - say urban racial minorities, or poor rural residents. My completely uneducated guess is that rape and domestic violence are far more pervasive and unaddressed problems among the social sub-strata of our society.

Julian Real said...

Hi Sarah,

There are rural and urban poor women activists who work in this area who would likely be far more able to discuss this matter with you than I can. So if anyone wishes to respond to Sarah's comment, please do.

For now, all I'll say is that rape and battery are not class-dependent. Alaska Native women, and other Indigenous North American women are raped at a higher rate because white het men, among other populations of men, know they can get away with it. Privilege, protected status, socialisation to take with force, unjust access without negative consequence for the predator/perpetrator is largely what allows men to rape serially and endemically as a group, in my view.

The more marginalised someone is, the more silenced they tend to be in terms of dominant media and feeling empowered to speak out about atrocity to dominant social institutions, but plenty of people with very little institutional supports do speak out, obviously.

Poverty is a silencing mechanism of capitalism, also a lethal one. Women in prostitution can't report rape by procurers and pimps without being arrested. Racism means women of color will be treated with even more disregard and disrespect when reporting rape to anyone, than white women. Being of color also means, as I witness what men do, that ALL races of men believe they have "a right, an entitlement, of access" to use and abuse you if you are a woman.

Black men, for example, know that a racist society will target them as "the rapists" whether or not they rape. So they cannot get away with what white men get away with doing the world over.

Almost no one I know, no woman, across class, region, race, and ethnicity, has reported to "authorities" the rapist who assaulted them, or the father figure who incested them, or the friendly man who molested them.

One woman I know did contact detectives after she learned, with horror, that the man who raped her had done so to many other women. But it was extremely difficult for her to report this, because it brought up so much distress.

As a survivor of a few forms of sexual assault and abuse, I can only say, for myself, that the acts themselves, delivered with the messages that come with them, are so invisibilising, denigrating, humiliating, and silencing that I didn't tell anyone for years, and still have never told a police officer or anyone else who could "prosecute" the perps.

And that's what a lot women have told me over the years too.

Again, speaking for myself, enduring the experience, and the memory and the post-traumatic stress, is quite enough for me to try to do effectively. I learned to speak out by watching brave women do it.