Week of July 23rd

Congress Moves to Protect Native Women from Assaults

Based on a recent report, "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA," by Amnesty International and Native American activists, “the U.S. Congress is moving to provide additional funding to protect Native American women who suffer disproportionate levels of rape and other sexual abuse,” reported Jim Lobe from Inter Press Service News Agency.

On Wednesday (7/25/07) the House of Representatives approved a one million dollar measure to create a tribal sex offender and protection order registry, which would potentially identify non-Indian sexual assault perpetrators. The Senate has already approved the appropriations.

Larry Cox, the executive director of Amnesty’s U.S. section said, "This vote is an important step toward justice for Native American and Alaska Native women. But more needs to be done."

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that “tribal governments cannot prosecute criminal defendants who are non-Indian even if the crime of which they are accused takes place on tribal lands.” 

Cox said Congress should increase funding streams for Native American women under Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), “particularly those provisions to ensure that tribal courts and police have the wherewithal to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse, especially in rural areas.” Cox also said additional Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners must be hired; those who are “capable of conducting timely forensic medical examinations after assaults take place.”

Rape Cases Go Uninvestigated on Rural Indian Reservations

Laura Sullivan from National Public Radio found rural Indian reservations do not have “enough police to investigate sexual assaults and few of the cases are prosecuted. NPR spoke with at least a dozen people on Standing Rock — rape counselors, doctors, tribal leaders and victims — people who were either assaulted or know women who were in cases where no charges were filed.” Police do not have enough resources to hire additional officers, make arrests or respond to all calls.

Victims often wait for days or months to “get an officer to respond to a call for help. The reservation's only women's shelter is still waiting for police to come after someone cut all of their phone lines two months ago.”  Only four Bureau of Indian Affairs police officers patrol Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which covers 2.3 million acres in North and South Dakota. 

Washington, D.C. is the only funding source for the tribe. Pat Ragsdale, director of The Bureau of Indian Affairs said that many cases are not being investigated. However, Ragsdale expects the situation will be mitigated with new funding streams proposed by the Bush administration. The administration has proposed adding an additional 50 BIA officers and an addition $16 million in funding. 

Ron His Horse Is Thunder, is chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Thunder says “as long as the tribe must depend on the federal government to police and prosecute people on their own land, anyone who comes to Standing Rock may well be able to rape or assault women and get away with it.”

U.S. Army Recruiters and Sexual Assault 

MedIndia.net reported that more money is being spent to convince young women to join the U.S. military. “But reports show that they actually are becoming victims of sexual assault at the hands of recruiters even before they take their military oath of allegiance.”

A former U.S. army solider, Aimee Allison, says “there is a deep problem of widespread abuse and a system that protects the criminals.” A 2005 Associated Press investigation found that “one in 200 frontline recruiters were punished for harassment and abuse. The Army alone had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct in the last decade and called for a recruitment stand down day in 2005.”

As a result of increased reports of sexual violence the U.S. army orders thousands of recruiters to attend ethics training after widespread reports of harassment, rape, jail threats, among other issues. Criminal convictions are rarely handed out to recruiters in military or civilian courts. The most common type of punishment given to recruiters is forfeiture of pay or reduction of rank. 

Sex Offenders and Emerging Corporate Policies

KNTV's Mike Luery of the Associated Press reported last week that as many as “2,100 newly paroled sex offenders are living illegally near schools and parks under the tough residency requirements” outlined in Jessica’s law. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will give “the parolees 45 days to find new homes, a move that could spark renewed conflicts in communities throughout the state as sex offenders seek to comply with the law.”

James Tilton, director of the CDCR, said that the “moves could leave some parolees homeless or force them to live in substandard housing.” Tilton also indicated that “corrections officials will begin going through the list case by case to confirm the residency violations.”

Suzanne Brown-McBride of CALCASA said she is concerned about where sex offenders may go if t
hey are forced to leave their homes.

MySpace Takes Action Against Sex Offenders

Matthew Moore from Telegraph News reported last week that, “MySpace the social networking website…has deleted the profiles of 29,000 sex offenders.” MySpace tightened online security following criticism from US authorities about the sex offender profiles.

MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, hopes other social networking sites will do the same, "We're pleased that we've successfully identified and removed registered sex offenders from our site,” said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer.

MySpace is considering implementing policies to protect youth from sexual predators. Some options include, running “advertising for the police so that younger users can support suspicious encounters, requiring more stringent checks on age and identity and developing software to allow parents to monitor their children's use of the site.”