As an Indian woman, I was very upset to say the least after reading Melvin Martin's piece, A taboo subject in Indian Country
Mr. Martin stated in so many words in his op-ed that there is an extreme reluctance on the part of Indian people everywhere to even discuss, much less effectively address the problem of child sexual abuse. Here is my perspective on the disturbing crimes committed against Native Americans:
Once again we are forced to see a horrendous example of our Native childrens' voices being silenced by yet another instance of child sexual abuse. It is, however, most encouraging to witness a diverse array of professionals from around Indian Country step up to the plate and host the Hope Conference
in Rapid City, South Dakota, at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn on December 18-20, 2009, partly in response to the devastating news that one of our own community members violated our children.
It is difficult to understand why these crimes are taking place and we have many valid explanations, with historical trauma topping the list. Understanding the underlying reasons for a problem is important, but as community members we need to go beyond this.
Let us vigorously embrace the inherent strengths of our communities and come together and place the elimination of child sexual abuse as a top priority throughout Indian Country. We need to focus on workable community solutions that protect our children. We need our tribal leaders, our parents, our elders, our spiritual leaders, our political leaders, our teachers, our social workers, our mental health workers, our law enforcement and criminal justice professionals to unite and send a clear message that we will not tolerate the horrific crime of child sexual abuse.
If we don’t feel that there are culturally appropriate models out there to help us eradicate child sexual victimization, then let’s create the tools that our communities can use. Adults are responsible for protecting our children, we need to talk to each other and send out a national message of urgency to take action. There are communities that are doing good work in protecting their children and have a coordinated response through multi-disciplinary teams to intervene when child abuse allegations are reported.
We can highlight what works to protect our children, look at what isn’t effective and make changes.
We must not let the continued denial of child sexual abuse hold us back from protecting our children. We must create an environment for our children that fully safeguards their disclosure of abuse and to believe and support them when they come forward. We must hold all offenders responsible and accountable for their crimes against children, no matter who they are. As adults, we need to educate ourselves, put policies in place that make it difficult for individuals like Kevin Peniska to have access to our children.
This is just one more story, one of many that demonstrates that perpetrators can be anyone, no matter what their position is in a community. Why do we as a people ignore the national statistics that show Native children having the second highest incidence of child abuse in the United States? Here is another wake up call for Indian Country.
Don’t hit the snooze button, take action and support our children. And the time is now.
Linda Logan (Choctaw), MSW, is the Executive Director of the Native American Children's Alliance, a national resource available to tribal communities that want to create a community response to child sexual abuse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Melvin Martin: A taboo subject in Indian Country
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