Will there be justice for Native women? Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Opinion

Mary Annette Pember: 'It's hands off when reporting one of our own'




Is Indian Country reluctant to take down one of its own? As allegations about Sherman Alexie reverberate in the media, independent journalist Mary Annette Pember explores the challenges facing Native women who have been victimized by Native men:
Although we’ve been yelling about this for a long time, the non-Native world has only recently begun to listen. In the legacy media, perhaps fueled by public attention garnered by the #MeToo movement, our high rates of sexual violence are covered as though they are a recent epidemic.

In fact, one might describe our story as the longest running #MeToo movement in U.S. history; our movement, however, predates social media by about 150 years.

But no matter; I’m grateful for any opportunity to elevate our cause.

According to findings in the 2016 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey by the National Institute of Justice, 84.3 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetimes; 56.1 percent are victims of sexual violence.

Although data indicates that most of the perpetrators are non-Native, the outing of Alexie exposes a shameful open secret in Indian Country; our men are also guilty of using the privileges and protections of wealth, power, and social status to prey on people they perceive as vulnerable.

Privately, Native women share many stories about Native men who hurt friends, our families, and us. Victims and bystanders struggle terribly over how to respond.

I’m not suggesting that non-Native victims don’t struggle over how to respond to assault and harassment. Reporting a perpetrator is a courageous, daunting step, regardless of one’s ethnicity or station in life.

For Native women, reporting one of our own adds a uniquely sickening challenge.

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember Sherman Alexie and the Longest Running #MeToo Movement in History (Rewire March 2, 2018)

Related Stories:
Sherman Alexie breaks silence after allegations of sexual harassment (February 28, 2018)
Native women are stepping up as sexual harassment remains in the spotlight (December 22, 2017)
One Native Woman's Struggle: 'We've had colonizers beat us up for centuries' (December 22, 2017)