Raping With Impunity

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Amnesty International has issued a disturbing new report that asserts an incredibly high rate of sexual violence and rape against Native American and Alaskan Native women.

“A US Department of Justice study on violence against women concluded that 34.1 per cent of American Indian and Alaska Native women – or more than one in three – will be raped during their lifetime; the comparable figure for the USA as a whole is less than one in five. Shocking though these statistics are, it is widely believed that they do not accurately portray the extent of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.”

The report goes on to state that contrary to typical rape statistics, the vast majority of these rapes are committed by strangers and outsiders.

“According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.”

Unfortunately, due to a mixture of archaic laws, a lack of funding for tribal courts and law enforcement, and a general failure at the federal level to pursue rape cases against Native women most of these crimes go unpunished. Creating a situation that allows perpetrators to “rape with impunity”.

“It appears that Indigenous women in the USA may be targeted for acts of violence and denied access to justice on the basis of their gender and Indigenous identity … Indigenous women described to Amnesty International how they experience contemporary sexual violence as a legacy of impunity for past atrocities.”

Monica Aleman, Program Director at MADRE, an International women;s human rights organization, and International Coordinator of FIMI, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum sees the issue of rape and violence against Indigenous women as linked to the rights and recognition of Indigenous Peoples.

“For Indigenous women, historical and contemporary experiences of genocide, in combination with gender discrimination, give rise to multiple forms of gender-based violence. Today, global patterns of ongoing colonization and militarism; racism and social exclusion; and poverty-inducing economic and “development” policies generate human rights violations against Indigenous women, including gender-based violence.”

What can be done at this stage? Amnesty International has several recommendations, the principal ones being funding and the removing of legal obstacles created by “jurisdictional confusion and complexity”. Meanwhile ‘Devilstower’ at the progressive mega-blog Daily Kos urges readers to contact their congresspersons urging (among other things) the full funding of the Violence Against Women Act.

“In the meantime, send a note to your congressperson — today would be good — urging them to support additional funds for law enforcement and forensics in these communities (needless to say, there is no CSI: Standing Rock). And tell them to dump a law that, at its heart, enshrines the idea that some people are less entitled to justice than others. It’s well past time for the racist 1885 Major Crimes Act to be eliminated. Most of all, work to see that congress fully funds the Violence Against Women Act. The current act calls for 10% of funds to go to tribal areas.”

This report is deeply troubling. Rape on such a massive scale against an Indigenous population points to an almost genocidal impulse. Rape as a weapon of war. Modern Pagans and Heathens should take special notice of this. I have long felt that those of us who follow a revived or reconstructed form of polytheism should pay special attention to, and when possible practice solidarity with, those peoples, groups, and cultures that practice or nurture a surviving form of ancient or indigenous polytheism.

We should spread the message of this ongoing tragedy among our communities, write to our politicians, and give to charitable groups that are stepping up to help.