Did You Know Indigenous Women Have Higher Rates of Violence Acted Against Them?

A crowd of people marching behind a large banner held by 4 people wearing masks to symbolize those who can no longer speak, that says No More Stolen Sisters on top and bottom sandwiching the letters MMIW for Women's March of 2019
Activist at Women’s March of 2019 with masks over their faces symbolizing those who can no longer speak

By Katrina Arellano

Though it is heartbreaking to hear tragedies day in and day out, talking about the experiences of others and how their lives are affected by violence is crucial to understanding the impact. Something that is not often talked of is how American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) women have higher rates of violence acted against them such as domestic violence, sexual assault, homicide and even stalking. The homicide rate of AI/AN women are second to African American women, but higher than white women. According to the Reclaiming Power and Place report, native women are 12 times more likely to experience violence in comparison to their white counterparts. All the research is accumulated over the past 30 years, documenting the statistics revolving around indigenous people on reservations, such as AI, AN, and within urban areas such as Canada and Mexico, where 71% of AI/AN live.

Info graphic of statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women by the Urban Health Institute that says #MMIW 84% of Native American and Alaskan Native women will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner. 56% of women will experience sexual violence. 55% of women will experience physical violence by an intimate partner. 48% of NA & AN women will experience stalking.
Statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women by the Urban Health Institute

According to a 2016 Research report from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), 84% of AI/AN women have experienced violence in their lifetime. To put this percentage into further perspective, this comes out to over 4 in 5 AI/AN women. While the stats on crimes against indigenous women are documented, the data on missing and murdered indigenous women does not have a database, but a likely inaccurate number of 5,712 Native women and girls are missing. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, only 116 of those cases reported were logged in the US Department of Justice’s federal missing data base. These numbers, and rather the lack of, reflect a much-overlooked epidemic and institutional racism, despite past reforms that have tried to close legal loopholes that separate the responsibilities between Tribal and State Law.  

Most of these cases are never solved which means Native women are not likely to have justice brought to them because, as stated by the Indian Law Resource Center, the “race-based criminal jurisdictional scheme created by the United States has limited the ability of Indian nations to protect Native women from violence and to provide them with meaningful remedies.” Distinguishing between tribal and federal/state law prevents these nations from having criminal authority over non-Indians simply because they are not of their tribe. The lack of criminal authority over non-Indians, the ones who commit the most acts of violence against Native women, is due to the prosecution being left to the state. Since federal and state officials have the authority over non-Indians vs. the tribes due to differences in jurisdiction and control, prosecutions are often declined. The U.S. Crime Victims Funds are not distributed equally among tribal lands as they are the rest of the states. The funds make up a billion dollars meant to update their resources and support services. According to the Department of Justice report of 2017, “from 2010 through 2014, state governments passed only 0.5 percent of the available funds to programs serving tribal victims, leaving a significant unmet need in most tribal communities.”

The lack of attention to the epidemic of violence against women was studied by the UIHI and found “the lack of quality data include underreporting, racial misclassification, poor relationships between law enforcement and American Indian and Alaska Native communities, poor record-keeping protocols, institutional racism in the media, and a lack of substantive relationships between journalists and American Indian and Alaska Native communities.” It seems these cases are not often talked about not only because of the lack of data documented, but also the lack of reporting by media outlets which come out to 95% of cases never covered by national or international media. UIHI analyzed the coverage that has taken place, concluding 50% of the 46 media outlets used violent language such as racial stereotyping, reference victim’s criminal history, victim-blaming language, or made excuses for the perpetrator. University of Kansas professor, author, and member of Muscogee Nation, Sarah Deer said,

“I think the reason that Native women may go missing at higher rates than other groups of people is very similar to the reason that they are at higher risk for domestic violence and sexual assault. The legal system is simply not functioning properly (to prevent) these types of things from happening.”

The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 was implemented as a means of ensuring Tribes can access law enforcement databases, which in turn is meant to increase public safety within Indian country and decrease violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. Without this law, the funds to solve and bring justice to the crimes were not there. Tribes want to keep their members safe, but before this law they were lacking in tribal officers, whereas now the law increases efforts to recruit, train and keep them. Implementing this law enhances the authority tribes have to prosecute and incarcerate criminals through better data collection as well as provides resources for survivors, such as legal advice. Reports show how when tribes are given more funds for training and a means of investigation, such as control over investigating and persecuting nontribal members, perpetrators were arrested and convicted more often.

Info graphic on statistics of missing and murdered indigenous women which says 5,712 is the number of known incidents of missing and murdered Native American and Alaskan Native women of 2016. Only 116 cases were logged into the DOJ database. 67% is the number of cases between 2005-2009 that U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute of native community matters involving sexual abuse. 96% on some reservations, the number number of sexual violence against Native women committed by non-natives.
Info graphic of statistics on violence against women by the Urban Indian Health Institute

Because so many Native women go missing and are rarely found, Montana finally implemented a bill in the name of a missing Native woman, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind , 22, who was found floating in nearby water. A tragedy like this is one of many examples of state police not taking cases of missing women seriously. Though she was found dead, her body was found, which is better than not finding her at all. The Savanna Act is a federal bill meant to enforce collection of data on missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) cases between tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, but it does not address or take into consideration the difference between urban and federal jurisdiction which seems to be the basis of the problem of why violence against native women is not documented, resulting in the lack of criminal justice. Honoring Savannah Native women alike is the intention behind naming the bill after her, but according to the bill, the data on Savanna herself would not be logged under the federal government like the bill aims to do. Just last week, Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, spoke with the brother of a missing women, Olivia Lone Bear, who was recently found a mile from her house, dead in a truck submerged in a lake, 9 months after the report was made. The tribe urged for the lake to be searched by the state because they did not have the means of investigating water on their own. This story is one of many which reflect the lack of respect and seriousness taken for tribal peoples. Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is the most recent step in restoring tribal jurisdiction because without further tribal authority, suspects and perpetrators will continue to go uninvestigated and therefore Native women and girls will continue to be victims at higher rates. The lack of attention to MMIW cases emanates a lack of care towards indigenous women therefore acting on the crisis of violence against them starts with seeing Native women as victims.

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Modern Influential Feminist Latinx Activists

By Madeleine Clow

Now that September has come to an end; I think it is important to remember that it is designated as Latinx Heritage Month. Latinx Heritage Month is dedicated to honoring, respecting, remembering, and advocating for the Latinx community, not just in September, but every single day.

Latinx feminism is described philosophically as being rooted in definitions of political and social context by colonialism. Latinx feminism is focused on the work done in reaction to these contexts. It is in tension with itself because there are many Latinx feminisms, due to the diversity of cultures between the regions, histories, and people of each Latinx community’s society. These feminisms are rooted in the relationships between gender, ethnicity, socio-economic class, religion, citizenship, and sex. Continue reading “Modern Influential Feminist Latinx Activists”

One in Sixteen

*Content Warning*

By Madeleine Clow

On September 16, 2019, JAMA Internal Medicine published investigative findings into women in the United States and their first sexual encounters. Specifically, whether thepexels-photo-1526814 women’s first time having a sexual encounter was forced upon them or not. Unfortunately, the findings were frightening. One in sixteen women in the United States have been sexually assaulted for their first sexual experience. The investigation questioned 13,310 womenpexels-photo-1595647, participating in United States government health surveys from 2011 to 2017.

Overall, that equates to 3.3 million women in the United States, whose first sexual experience was involuntary.

Seven percent of the women surveyed were, on average, fifteen years old, and their assailants, male, age of twenty-seven. Most of these women reported that the encounter was usually verbally pressuring rather than physically. The women were asked, “was (it) voluntary or not voluntary, that is, did you choose to have sex of your own free will or not?”pexels-photo-622135

What is even more frightening, are the numbers of Black women in the United States who have experienced sexual assault as their first sexual encounter. Forty to sixty percent of Black women have reported being coerced into sexual contact by the age of eighteen. What pexels-photo-936048does this mean for Black women in the United States? It leads to four in ten Black women being subjected to intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Also, according, to Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), forty percent of sex trafficking survivors in the United States are Black women. Many Black women’s sexual assaults go unreported due to their understanding of the criminal justice system repeatedly devaluing a sexual assault crime perpetrated towards a Black woman.

Continue reading “One in Sixteen”

Everything You Need to Know About the 2020 Female Presidential Candidates

a letter board that says "voting day," with "I voted," stickers surrounding it
“I voted,” stickers
Image taken from pexels.com

By Bailey Brockett

Since the birth of our country, we have watched our leaders progress and regress. We have seen their major successes, their mistakes, and ultimately their contribution to making our country what it is today. We have also watched as every presidential election results in a male president. While it has somewhat worked for the last 230 years, I think we are in need of a change. This upcoming election might be one of the most important of our generation. A historic number of females have announced their candidacy, and we couldn’t be more excited. From a combat veteran, to the second African-American woman in history to be elected to the senate, there is a wide range of backgrounds and experiences in these women who wish to lead our country. For those of you who are politically clueless like myself, or who are just excited for these women, allow me to shed some light on the 2020 female presidential candidates.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard on Election Night, standing in front of the American flag, wearing a plethora of leis. She is waving to the crowd.
Tulsi Gabbard on Election Night 2012
Image taken from: Official campaign website of Tulsi Gabbard: tulsi2020.com

About Tulsi Gabbard: Currently the youngest presidential candidate in the race, Gabbard grew up in Hawaii, and has always had a passion for the environment around her. She served two tours in the Middle East and she is the first female combat veteran to run for the presidency. She has been on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committee for six years.

Platform: Some of the main issues Gabbard intends to bring attention to are ending the failed war on drugs, enacting a criminal justice reform system, investing in public education, racial justice, gun safety and second amendment rights, and more.

Learn more about Tulsi Gabbard here.

Continue reading “Everything You Need to Know About the 2020 Female Presidential Candidates”

The Toxicity of White Feminism

By Madeleine Clow

As a gay white woman who identifies as an intersectional feminist, the toxicity of white feminism holds particular urgency for me. Hopefully other white people who consider themselves feminists also want to be educated on how white feminism actively works to uphold the patriarchy. If we do not, then it will continue to perpetuate and overtake the feminist movement. As white feminists it is in our best interest as well as in the best interest of the feminist movement, to learn how to reclaim feminism from the toxic white feminism we have come to today.

What is white feminism? White feminism is defined as, “the label given to feminist efforts and actions that uplift white women but that exclude or otherwise fail to address issues faced by minority groups, especially women of color and LGBTQ women.” How is white feminism enforced in our daily lives? Dr. Robin DiAngelo wrote the book, White Fragility, which details the sociological premise behind what makes white people seemingly incapable of being a true ally. And how white people, can work towards improving their actions as allies, activists, and learning how to make other white people more open-minded towards minority groups.

Continue reading “The Toxicity of White Feminism”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Real Big Deal

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as RBG, is the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and after the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, retired, she was the only woman on the court for a while. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the ACLU’s general counsel.

The Women’s Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in over 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. All the while, RBG was a wife and mother. Within the first few years of this project, Ginsburg fought six cases of discrimination before the Supreme Court, and won five. She chose to focus not just on problems faced by women, but demonstrated that gender inequality was detrimental for both men and women. She took part in expanding the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to include women. She also argued for a widower with children who, when his wife passed, was unable to collect any benefits to help him support his dependents. She’s part of the reason that jury duty became mandatory for women as citizens of this nation, and why women in Oklahoma could legally drink at the same age as men. Continue reading “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Real Big Deal”

A Small Win For UI Women

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By Mary Emert

On Wednesday October 31st the ASUI Senate passed a bill that would provide free menstrual products in all Women’s and gender neutral bathrooms at no cost to students. The Senate will have a $300 budget for this semester and the bill’s main advocate Senator Samragyee Guatam is working with UI faculty to keep the bill continuous into the future so that free menstrual products can always be offered at University of Idaho.

I know I for one am grateful for this. While I always try to have a pad or tampon in my backpack or purse, sometimes I just don’t. While I could ask other women around me sometimes it’s just uncomfortable and you never know what kind of products they may or may not have. I have a few times over the last few years even bled through a product that did not last and have had no replacement other than uncomfortable wadded up single ply University of Idaho toilet paper. This bill passing stops that for me and for every other woman who may not be prepared for Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. Taking away from the anxiety inducing question of “What if my period starts in class?” Continue reading “A Small Win For UI Women”