[Hpn] Report charts sexual violence against indigenous women in U.S.

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Wed, 25 Apr 2007 04:22:16 -0400


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http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/04/25/news/state/6_02_224_24_07.txt

 Report charts sexual violence against indigenous women in U.S.=20

By: JEANNETTE J. LEE - Associated Press=20
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Sexual violence against indigenous women in the =
U.S. has reached stunningly high rates, in part because a lack of =
funding for law enforcement and health care workers in their communities =
allow perpetrators to "rape with impunity," according to a report =
released Tuesday by a human rights group.

The Amnesty International report found that American Indians and Alaska =
Natives are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than =
women of other ethnic groups in the U.S.

Justice can be elusive for indigenous victims who are victimized on =
native lands or in remote villages because tribal jurisdiction is =
limited or poorly defined and public safety agencies are severely =
underfunded, the report said.

    =20
In Alaska, there is little or no law enforcement presence in dozens of =
native communities that lie far from any road system. Most villages can =
be reached only by air or sometimes boat or snowmobile, and dangerous =
winter weather can leave crime victims marooned for days before state =
troopers arrive.

There is no easy way to escape. Many victims fly hundreds of miles from =
home to safe houses and treatment centers in the cities.

But urban areas are no safer. In Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, =
Alaska Natives were 9.7 times more likely to be raped or sexually =
molested than the rest of the population, the report said.

Many are homeless or live in neighborhoods where crime is already high, =
can be reluctant to seek help from police, or are simply too trusting of =
strangers, said Denise Morris, who heads the Alaska Native Women's =
Sexual Assault Committee in Anchorage.

Morris and other victims' advocates spoke about the report to The =
Associated Press in Anchorage.

"If you come from a rural community, everyone knows everyone and people =
always stop to help each other out," Morris said. "But unfortunately =
they sometimes don't realize that if someone in an urban area stops to =
lend assistance they could really be looking to harm them."

The report was based on interviews with victims, health workers and law =
enforcement personnel in Alaska, Oklahoma and the Dakotas.

It found that for a variety of reasons, native women often lack access =
to proper forensic medical exams following an assault and that law =
enforcement is often slow to respond. In many cases, officers routinely =
mishandled evidence, with the result that the crimes were never =
prosecuted.

"Regardless of the location, the issue is, these women are being denied =
justice and suffering disproportionately because of it," said Rachel =
Ward, an Amnesty International research director based in New York.

Jami Rozell, 25, said she was raped four years ago by an acquaintance in =
her hometown of Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Several =
months after the assault, she decided to press charges, but police had =
already destroyed the photos and the nurse's report from her forensic =
physical exam in what they called a routine department clean-up.

Rozell said she had waited until after her brother's wedding and her =
sister's pregnancy to press charges because a police detective had told =
her she had up to seven years to do so.

"I would have pressed charges from beginning if I had known the evidence =
would be destroyed that quickly," she said in a phone call with the AP =
in Anchorage. "I didn't want to just let this guy get away with it. I =
decided only five months later and it was all destroyed."

Rozell would like to see better training for law enforcement officials =
and for health workers at native hospitals. Hastings Indian Hospital in =
Talequah wasn't equipped to give her the forensic physical checkup that =
normally follows a sexual assault, she said. She had to go to the city =
hospital instead.

One in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, =
while the national figure for women overall is less than one in five, =
the report said.

The statistics can come as a surprise to those outside insular, =
predominantly indigenous communities like Tahlequah and Standing Rock =
Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota, where survivors told =
Amnesty researchers that they couldn't think of any indigenous women =
they knew who hadn't been abused.

"Very few people know about these figures, stats and shocking =
disparities," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty =
International USA. "To be honest, I don't think we really knew and we're =
a human rights organization. I think it speaks volumes about the general =
lack of awareness among non-natives when it comes to the incredible =
rates of rape and sexual assault in native communities."

The report is one of about 40 written by Amnesty International since =
2004 when it launched its International Campaign on Violence against =
Women.

The human rights group hopes the report will convince Congress to resume =
funding of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, in particular a new =
section added in 2005 aimed at protecting indigenous women.

It's also calling for an increase in funding for the Indian Health =
Service to hire more sexual assault nurses.

On the Net:

Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/


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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><A=20
href=3D"http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/04/25/news/state/6_02_224_24=
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4_07.txt</A></FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;Report charts sexual violence against indigenous women in =
U.S.=20
<BR><BR><SPAN class=3Dbyline>By: JEANNETTE J. LEE - Associated =
Press</SPAN>=20
<P>ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Sexual violence against indigenous women in the =
U.S. has=20
reached stunningly high rates, in part because a lack of funding for law =

enforcement and health care workers in their communities allow =
perpetrators to=20
"rape with impunity," according to a report released Tuesday by a human =
rights=20
group.<BR><BR>The Amnesty International report found that American =
Indians and=20
Alaska Natives are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually =
assaulted than=20
women of other ethnic groups in the U.S.</P>
<P>Justice can be elusive for indigenous victims who are victimized on =
native=20
lands or in remote villages because tribal jurisdiction is limited or =
poorly=20
defined and public safety agencies are severely underfunded, the report=20
said.</P>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0 align=3Dright border=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD class=3Dphoto align=3Dmiddle></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
<P>In Alaska, there is little or no law enforcement presence in dozens =
of native=20
communities that lie far from any road system. Most villages can be =
reached only=20
by air or sometimes boat or snowmobile, and dangerous winter weather can =
leave=20
crime victims marooned for days before state troopers =
arrive.<BR><BR>There is no=20
easy way to escape. Many victims fly hundreds of miles from home to safe =
houses=20
and treatment centers in the cities.<BR><BR>But urban areas are no =
safer. In=20
Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, Alaska Natives were 9.7 times more =
likely to=20
be raped or sexually molested than the rest of the population, the =
report=20
said.<BR><BR>Many are homeless or live in neighborhoods where crime is =
already=20
high, can be reluctant to seek help from police, or are simply too =
trusting of=20
strangers, said Denise Morris, who heads the Alaska Native Women's =
Sexual=20
Assault Committee in Anchorage.<BR><BR>Morris and other victims' =
advocates spoke=20
about the report to The Associated Press in Anchorage.<BR><BR>"If you =
come from=20
a rural community, everyone knows everyone and people always stop to =
help each=20
other out," Morris said. "But unfortunately they sometimes don't realize =
that if=20
someone in an urban area stops to lend assistance they could really be =
looking=20
to harm them."<BR><BR>The report was based on interviews with victims, =
health=20
workers and law enforcement personnel in Alaska, Oklahoma and the=20
Dakotas.<BR><BR>It found that for a variety of reasons, native women =
often lack=20
access to proper forensic medical exams following an assault and that =
law=20
enforcement is often slow to respond. In many cases, officers routinely=20
mishandled evidence, with the result that the crimes were never=20
prosecuted.<BR><BR>"Regardless of the location, the issue is, these =
women are=20
being denied justice and suffering disproportionately because of it," =
said=20
Rachel Ward, an Amnesty International research director based in New=20
York.<BR><BR>Jami Rozell, 25, said she was raped four years ago by an=20
acquaintance in her hometown of Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee =
Nation.=20
Several months after the assault, she decided to press charges, but =
police had=20
already destroyed the photos and the nurse's report from her forensic =
physical=20
exam in what they called a routine department clean-up.<BR><BR>Rozell =
said she=20
had waited until after her brother's wedding and her sister's pregnancy =
to press=20
charges because a police detective had told her she had up to seven =
years to do=20
so.<BR><BR>"I would have pressed charges from beginning if I had known =
the=20
evidence would be destroyed that quickly," she said in a phone call with =
the AP=20
in Anchorage. "I didn't want to just let this guy get away with it. I =
decided=20
only five months later and it was all destroyed."<BR><BR>Rozell would =
like to=20
see better training for law enforcement officials and for health workers =
at=20
native hospitals. Hastings Indian Hospital in Talequah wasn't equipped =
to give=20
her the forensic physical checkup that normally follows a sexual =
assault, she=20
said. She had to go to the city hospital instead.<BR><BR>One in three =
American=20
Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, while the national figure =
for=20
women overall is less than one in five, the report said.<BR><BR>The =
statistics=20
can come as a surprise to those outside insular, predominantly =
indigenous=20
communities like Tahlequah and Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North =
and=20
South Dakota, where survivors told Amnesty researchers that they =
couldn't think=20
of any indigenous women they knew who hadn't been abused.<BR><BR>"Very =
few=20
people know about these figures, stats and shocking disparities," said =
Larry=20
Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "To be honest, I =
don't=20
think we really knew and we're a human rights organization. I think it =
speaks=20
volumes about the general lack of awareness among non-natives when it =
comes to=20
the incredible rates of rape and sexual assault in native=20
communities."<BR><BR>The report is one of about 40 written by Amnesty=20
International since 2004 when it launched its International Campaign on =
Violence=20
against Women.<BR><BR>The human rights group hopes the report will =
convince=20
Congress to resume funding of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, in =
particular=20
a new section added in 2005 aimed at protecting indigenous =
women.<BR><BR>It's=20
also calling for an increase in funding for the Indian Health Service to =
hire=20
more sexual assault nurses.<BR><BR><B>On the Net:</B><BR><BR>Amnesty=20
International: <A href=3D"http://www.amnesty.org/"=20
target=3D_blank>http://www.amnesty.org/</A></P></DIV>
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