While I listened to President Obama speak before a conference of the National Tribal Leaders last week, it was mentioned that 1 in 3 women living on reservations will be raped in her lifetime. That’s double the national average.
The appalling statistic made me look into the issue a bit more. In 2007, NPR did a series on how rape cases go largely uninvestigated and unreported on reservations. Legal technicalities prevent Indian police from prosecuting non-Indians for rape that happens on tribal lands.
The Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center is a nonprofit among several working to address issues of sexual assault and unify reservation policies on justice for victims of sexual violence. The place an emphasis on treatment for the victims — physical and emotional — and on standardizing rules addressing the issue. They offer a series of reports on the lack of access Native American women have to contraceptives, abortion, and proper sexual health.
I don’t know how much awareness there is about the issue of rape on reservations, but I was stunned by the statistic. Reservations also have greater poverty and unemployment, as well as fewer college grads than the country as a whole. Suicide is also a big problem. Here’s a slightly dated but still relevant account of tribal life.