One of the dirty little secrets of the United States legal system is the prevalence of sexual abuse and assault against Native American women. They are sexually assaulted two and one half times as often as any other group in America and they are also the most likely to be stalked.
Native women are more likely to be assaulted by men of another race; to sustain injuries during the assault; and to be gang raped.
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Because of long-standing cultural mistrust of law enforcement and the judicial systems, these victims are often hesitant to report the crime.
Even when victims report a rape to tribal police, there is often no response. Most reservations have small federal funded BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) Police forces and sexual assaults are not even investigated. Many of the Indian Health Service Centers –the first medical stop for most Native Americans- do not stock rape kits, so DNA evidence, vital for legal prosecution, is not collected.
The U.S. Department of Justice has recently acknowledged this problem with pilot projects for tribes to change the social and judicial climate around sexual assault. Grants now fund classes for law enforcement officers, encouraging tribes to change their legal codes to increase punishment for rapes, and to treat victims of domestic violence with sensitivity.
Tribal women themselves have started to band together to assist victims of assault and to demand action from law enforcement and the legal system. These women honor the survivors of sexual assault, sponsor educational programs, and lobby their tribes for changes in their legal codes to take sexual crimes seriously.