Opinion: Sexual violence is tearing Native communities apart

"The Northern Cheyenne people have a saying: "A nation is not defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it's finished. No matter how brave its warriors, or how strong its weapons." Well, we are pretty sure that for much of the Native American community, the nation is near defeat.

What else can we say when one out of every three Native American women report they have been raped, or that an attempt has been made to sexually brutalise them? That is more than 2.5 times the national average. And if you think those numbers are staggering, consider who is carrying out these attacks: at least 86% of sexual assaults are reportedly being perpetrated by non-Native men, according to the US department of justice.

We don't think about such massive sexual assault rates happening in industrialised places like the US. We think about them as war crimes happening in downtrodden, developing countries. But here we have rates of sexualised violence that rival anything the Women's Media Center project Women Under Siege has documented in Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, 12% of women say they've been raped in their lifetime."

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Lauren Chief Elk and Lauren Wolfe: Sexual violence is tearing Native American communities apart (The Guardian 9/8)

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