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Mitigating the Trauma: American Indian Survivors

By Cinnamon Ronneng, CCASA Guest Blogger & Program Coordinator for Red Wind Consulting, Inc.

Imagine if your likelihood of being Sexually Assaulted during your lifetime was 1 in 3, versus the national average of 1 in 6.

Sadly, this 1 in 3 statistic is a reality for women of American Indian/Native American descent. Here are a few other disturbing facts about violent crimes against American Indian/Native American women:

  • Sexual Assaults against American Indian women are more likely to involve multiple perpetrators, a weapon, and result in injuries
  • Homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for American Indian Women
  • 75% of murdered American Indian women were killed by an intimate partner
  • American Indian women are 2.5x more likely to be Stalked than women of other races
  • American Indian women are also 2.5x more likely to experience Domestic Violence than women of other races

While you might be thinking, “I don’t identify as American Indian, so this isn’t my problem,” here are a few more sobering statistics:

  • 87% of Sexual Assaults perpetrated against American Indian women are done by non-American Indian men
  • 70% of all violent crimes against American Indian people are perpetrated by non-American Indian offenders

With these statistics in mind, those assisting survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence need not only be aware of the sheer number of American Indian/Native American women affected, but also the role that historical oppression and generational trauma play in the lives of American Indian/Native American survivors.

According to Victoria Ybanez, a well-respected Victim Advocate for American Indian/Native American women, in her 2007 Women and War paper:

“Native American women live interned on their own land in the middle of war every day of their lives. When we think about war, often times we think it has to be declared by the President of the United States to be real, indigenous women live with the continued Nation to Nation conflict that began with the onset of colonization. Indigenous women have been the victims of war for centuries that continues today. The current day status of indigenous women is the product of an historical legacy brought forth by colonization and genocide. Repeatedly, non-Native people say that ‘it is time for indigenous people to move on,’ ‘let go of the past in order to finally heal,’ and such. Unfortunately, they are mistaken in thinking that this war has ended. Today we no longer have to defend ourselves and families from the killing brought about by battles and massacres yet Indian women are still raped, battered and killed. For indigenous women, the solution is in the looking back. Remembering the genocide that transpired and the place indigenous people come from to help create vision for the continued survival and resilience of our indigenous communities is an important part of restoring balance. Our past is part of who we are, it is carried in our ancestral memories and we must always honor who they are and what they continue to teach us.”

Many in the movement to end Domestic and Sexual Violence are sensitive to utilizing trauma informed care with their clients. When working with American Indian/Native American survivors, all providers need to understand that there may be a mistrust of the system, including Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault advocacy organizations, due to the generational trauma and abuse survivors have suffered from other institutions. We must look at how historical oppression may impact a survivor’s views of us and our organization, as well as their influence on her/his response to trauma.

If you would like more information on this topic, Red Wind Consulting, Inc. exists to help strengthen Tribal programs and other Native organizations’ ability to develop and enhance responses to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking, as well as to assist non-Native organizations in providing culturally humble responses to American Indian/Native American survivors. For training, technical assistance, or evaluation, contact Red Wind Consulting, Inc. at (866) 599-9650 or online at www.red-wind.net.

To read the full content of Women and War by Victoria Ybanez, excerpted above, click here.

*Statistics from 2010 Center for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and the 2000 National Crime Victimization Survey

Cinnamon Ronneng is the Program Coordinator for Red Wind Consulting, Inc. Red Wind’s vision is to strengthen Tribal programs and Native organizations’ ability to develop and enhance local response to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking. Red Wind consulting offers a wide range of methods for supporting and enhancing an organization’s ability to conduct their work, recognizing that each community is unique and can work with organizations across great distances.

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