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Native American Community

Native American women are at far greater risk of becoming victims of violence than any other group. This is due, in part, to the multi-layered effects of the jurisdictional maze, colonization, governmental policies such as assimilation and boarding schools, and the resulting loss of traditional culture.

  • Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely than the general U.S. female population to experience sexual assault.
  • According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 37.5% of Native American women are victimized by intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
  • Native American victims of intimate and family violence are more likely than victims of all other races to be injured and need hospital care.
  • The stalking rate against Native American and Alaska Native women is so high that 17% will be stalked during their lifetime.
  • A national survey found 15.5% of Native American couples reported violence within their marriage, 7.2% of that was severe violence.

Equally disturbing is the fact that unlike most sexual assaults, in Native sexual assault cases the perpetrator and the victim are not of the same race. The reasons for these numbers is debated; some believe that they are due to the historical trauma imposed on Native families through the forced removal of children during the boarding school and foster care eras, others believe that perpetrators exploit the confusion over the jurisdiction of Native lands and intentionally seek out Native victims.

  • 86% of perpetrators of sexually violent crimes against Native people are non-Native.

Furthermore specific issues exist for Native American victims:

  • There is confusion regarding who has legal jurisdiction to prosecute and investigate crimes committed against Native women who live on reservation lands or within Indian Country.
  • Fear and mistrust of non-Native agencies may exist as a result of historically prejudicial policies and procedures pertaining to Native people.
  • Cultural barriers due to the lack of culturally appropriate programs serving Native victims of violence.

Helping Native people return to Traditional values and beliefs about women, men, children, families, and individual roles within communities is one way to prevent violence against Native people. We can start to address the affects of domestic and sexual violence by educating our communities that violence is not a Native tradition.

Non-Native people can help prevent violence against Native communities by refusing to accept or promote negative images or hateful language regarding Native people. By understanding the effects of historical trauma and colonialism, non-Native people can prevent the continuation of discrimination which leads to the acceptance of violence against Native people.


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Information in this section is contributed by Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Reviewed: April 26th, 2016