SENATOR MURKOWSKI CHAMPIONS AMERICAN INDIAN AND ALASKA NATIVE WOMEN’S SAFETY
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Murkowski today co-chaired a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on violence against Indian women. The hearing was partly in response to the Amnesty International Report “Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.”
“I am greatly troubled that American Indian and Alaska Natives face such unacceptably high levels of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Senator Murkowski. “Yet I am inspired by their strength and courage. We owe it to these women to correct the shortcomings contributing to this problem, such as a lack of law enforcement and inadequacies in the Indian Health Service’s forensic process.”
Alaska ranks first in incidences of rape in the United States, and Alaska Native women experience a disproportionately higher percentage of sexual violence than the population as a whole. Alaska’s vast geography further complicates the problem; at least one-third of Alaska Native villages that are inaccessible by road have no law enforcement presence.
“Violence against women and children is being perpetuated in communities where there exists no form of law enforcement and local infrastructure to address these incidents,” testified Tammy Young, Co-Director of the Alaska Native Women’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “Consequently, the life of a woman depends largely on the local community’s ability to provide immediate assistance. The development of this local response is the only assurance that women and often times their children in rural Alaska are provided with the basic human right to safety.”
Senator Murkowski is fighting to protect American Indian and Alaska Native women through the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007. The legislation includes provisions that would:
? Establish prevention, treatment, education and behavioral health programs addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.
? Require the establishment of protocols and coordination between Indian health programs, law enforcement, victim support services and the Attorney General to improve investigations and prosecutions.
? Provide incentives to obtain Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certifications.
The Amnesty International Report recommends increased funding to the Indian Health Service and their contract facilities. Native villages often lack the resources they need to examine victims and detain perpetrators. The report also strongly recommends improved cooperation between federal, state and tribal governments to institute effective plans of action.