I wrote another column encouraging folks to pay attention to the ongoing violence against indigenous women. One of the things I dread most are the conversations I have with my 5-year-old daughter about keeping herself safe from unwanted attention. She is a beautiful Lakota/Anishinaabe child, and unfortunately that means she is bombarded on all fronts by the very real possibility of physical, emotional, and spiritual violence. I don’t know that any parent relishes the idea of going over “worst case scenarios” with their child, but as a survivor of childhood and adolescent abuse, I am even more sensitive to the dangers of having an uninformed child, so we talk daily about ways to keep herself safe.
There are a lot of great resources available to help parents word these discussions, but the point here is that we HAVE to keep this discussion in the forefront throughout our daughters’ lives. Too many indigenous women suffer from violence and too many of our issues suffer from exploitation, so much so that we fade easily into the shadows where no one can see us. Do yourself and our indigenous daughters a favor and support the work of groups like the February 14th (First Nations) Women’s Memorial March and the Turtle Island solidarity events fighting to keep our women, their protection, their survival, and their successes in the forefront. Wopila tanka; anpetu cante wasté.
Little late in (re)posting this guest column I wrote for The Team Roe Times‘ latest issue (pub May 15, 2012). Read on. Then support a woman’s right to be and feel safe in her own skin, whether that’s making her own reproductive choices, or living without fear of domestic abuse/sexual violence. By this point, Noem and other House Republicans passed a weak ghost of the VAWA accepted in the Senate.
Representative Noem’s Latest Insult to Women
When it comes to violence, Native American women are the most vulnerable group; nearly half of all Native women are subject to rape, physical vio- lence, or stalking by a domestic partner at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Add political assault to that list.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s recent comments regarding the Violence Against Women’s Act was like a verbal gut-punch to Native women in South Dakota and across the nation.
Here’s the background: In April, the U.S. Senate reauthorized an expanded version of VAWA, which included new language allowing tribes to prosecute non-Native attackers.
That’s a pretty big deal considering the U.S. Department of Justice estimates 70% of the perpetrators of violence against Native women are non-Native. As it is, tribal councils have no authority to prosecute non-Native individu- als on domestic assault charges, even if the perpetrators live on reservation land.
Coupled with the Senate bill’s other protections for LGBT and immigrant survivors of domestic abuse, Rep. Noem dismissed these important provisions as nothing more than a vote-fishing scheme by Democrats. “Unfortunately, in Congress there are some who’d like to make this a political play,” Noem said. “They’d like to make a cheap shot and try to politicize it in an election year.”
Noem’s statement – and the flaccid counter-bill House Republicans want to pass – will leave a lasting mark on Native women and families if left untended.
I am Mniconjou Lakota from Cheyenne River. I have seen first-hand how prevalent domestic violence and sexual assault are on reservations. I have worked with Native mothers who say they teach their daughters how not to be raped. Got that? The lesson isn’t finding someone who loves and respects you, but rather avoiding a drunken partner or dodging attacks.
It utterly flabbergasts me how an elected official like Noem can claim to represent Native women and families, yet turn her back on the remedy intended to heal one of Indian Country’s most troubling sores.
Tell Rep. Noem to end this harmful attack against Native women and other at-risk populations. Noem can be reached by calling (202) 225-2801.