Video: Rape Crisis on Indian Reservations

According the Southwest Center for Law and Policy:

  • Native Americans are victims of rape or sexual assault at more than double the rate of other racial groups.
  • For Native American victims of violence, the offender was slightly more likely to be a stranger than an intimate partner, family member or acquaintance.
  • Native Americans described the offender as an acquaintance in 34% of rapes/sexual assaults, and as an intimate partner or family member in 25% of sexual assaults.

[Source: Southwest Ctr. for L. and Pol’y, Statistics (2005),; Steven W. Perry, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 203097, A Bureau of Justice Statistics Statistical Profile, 1992-2002: American Indians and Crime (2004), available at ]

The disempowerment and disenfranchisement of men of color is directly related to violence against women of color.

This film only discusses a small minority of the rapes that occur on reservations, as it address intra-racial rapes.  It is worth nothing that 80-90% of Indigenous (American) women who were raped were victimized by men of other races- primarily white.  This does not diminish the importance of addressing intra-racial rapes on reservations, but it does place the discussion in context.  Indigenous American women are the ONLY group whose rapes are largely interracial. The confluence of historical events [genocide, theft, dispossession, forced removal, forced assimilation, reservations, etc] has left First Nations vulnerable.  The sovereignty of the First Nations has been severely undermined, and it still is today.

ALSO: Native American activism has been around even before the “Civil Rights Movement.”  There are very dynamic movements even within reservations to preserve or restore the sovereignty of First Nations tribes, while upholding the human rights of every single individual. Google “American Indian Movement” “Indigenous Environmental Network” “The Alcatraz Indian Occupation” and “Indigenous Women for Justice.”  African-American activism is NOT an anomaly.  To say so is to embrace African-American exceptionalism and erase the histories of Asian-American, Indigenous-American, Latin@-American, etc activism.  The “Civil Rights Movement” was not just Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  People like Vine Deloria Jr, Mary Brave Bird, The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, and others– they may not be in the history books, but they are part of the struggle.

American Indians are NOT dead.  We have NOT vanished. We are not downtrodden and obliterated.  Our rich history and culture may not be preserved in mainstream histories, but they live on through familial lines, oral histories, books and arts.

Even in the case of African-Americans (descendants of slaves, in particular), the US government FAILED to provide freedmen w/ sustainable emancipation in addition to failing to provide adequate protects of constitutional/legal rights, thus they were susceptible [despite valiant efforts to protect their families and property] to racialized violence at the hands of whites who felt that they had been slighted, and re-enslavement at the hands of white landowners and businessowners who extended credit to sharecroppers while imposing crop liens that ensured debt slavery.  African-American women, who often worked in the domestic/service industry were especially subject to sexual violence at the hands of white employers, with little recourse or legal action on their side.

It continues today. Even after the 1st and 2nd Great Migrations, African-Americans in urban centers were residentially segregated by way or redlining and restrictive covenants that prevented investment in majority-Black (POC) areas, and also prevented Blacks from owning property in majority-White areas.  I’d say look up sun-down towns (James Loewen is the preemininent (sp?) researcher on this topic).

Here are some states on African-American women and rape:

  • In a study of African-American sexual assault survivors, only 17% reported the assault to police.
  • The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.

    Africana Voices Against Violence, Tufts University, Statistics, 2002,

  • Overall, African Americans were victimized by intimate partners a significantly higher rates than persons of any other race between 1993 and 1998. Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experienced intimate partner violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males and about 22 times the rate of men of other races.

    Callie Marie Rennison. and Sarah Welchans, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 178247, Intimate Partner Violence (2000), available at

  • Approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age 18.

    Africana Voices Against Violence, Tufts University, Statistics, 2002,

  • Africana Voices Against Violence, Tufts University, Statistics,

    Callie Marie Rennison, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 187635, Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim, 1993-1999, at 4, (2001), available at

  • African-American women experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24. Generally, Black women experience similar levels of intimate partner victimization in all other age categories as compared to White women, but experience slightly more domestic violence. (Estimates are provided from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which defines an intimate partner as a current or former spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Violent acts include murder, rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault.)
  • Intra-racial violence in African-American homes and communities often stems from internalised racism and self-hatred [this is assuming that the majority of homes are headed by partners who are African-American].  The same applies for intra-racial violence among First Nations people.  It is worth examining the ways in which patriarchal attitudes and mores operate within communities of color.  It is a sort of subjugated patriarchy that allows the oppressed to further oppress their partners, family members and members of their communities.  It paves the way for internecine conflict and allows a patriarchal, white supremacist society to continue to exist without effort.

    The solution involves addressing systemic inequalities and providing recourse and a safe space for women who have been subject to (sexual or otherwise) violence.  We cannot have one without the other.  Addressing systemic inequalities necessitates greater awareness at the community level (grassroots, bottom-up leadership)

    1 Comment

    Filed under Class, Critical Theory, Culture, Ethics, Feminism, First Nations, Gender, History, Human Rights, Race, Social Justice, The United States of America

    One response to “Video: Rape Crisis on Indian Reservations

    1. Dally

      very powerful video- everyone should view this video, definintely an eye-opener

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