Addressing Epidemic of Sexual Violence Against Native Women in US

July 20, 2011

This past Thursday, Amnesty’s Sarah Deer testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on protecting native women in the US.

Deer, a Native women’s advocate and member of Amnesty USA’s Native American and Alaska Native Advisory Council, addressed the safety and justice challenges native women in the United States face as documented by our 2007 Maze of Injustice report.

Our report revealed that 1 in 3 Native American and Alaskan Native women will be raped in her lifetime. Native women are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped than non-Native women in the US with nearly 86% of rapes perpetrated by non-Native men.  Widespread human rights abuses within the judicial system and the maze of the complex interrelation of federal, state, and tribal jurisdictions often allows perpetrators to act with impunity and evade justice.

Deer also shared shocking new information on the sex trafficking of Native women with hearing participants.  Chaired by Senator Akaka (D-HI), the hearing was also attended by Vice-Chairman Barrasso (R-WY), Senator Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Udall (D-NM), and Senator Franken (D-MN), who personally introduced Sarah and thanked Amnesty USA for our activism and commitment to protecting women.

The hearing included a wide range of witnesses who provided insight on the causes and consequences of violence and discrimination against Native women. Hearings like this one are an essential first step to truly understanding the complexity and depth of some of the issues facing Native women, and only by working in partnership with those on the ground can Congress expect to make lasting change.

President Obama signs Tribal Law and Order Act

While the 2010 passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act will begin to address long-term standing disparities between the justice systems on tribal lands – much more remains to be done.

The US government must use the recently endorsed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for addressing and upholding the rights of Indigenous communities in the US – and Congress must ensure that full and timely implementation of legislation such as TLOA continues to be a priority.

From improving justice and victim advocate services, to ensuring that a survivor of sexual assault is able to access timely and adequate healthcare services, Congress must work to ensure that the historic discrimination and disparities that American Indian and Alaska Native women face are reversed and addressed immediately.

This epidemic of violence must end, and we have the power to do it. Check out the Women’s Human Rights page on our site to see how you can take action!