By Jeri Clausing, of the Associated Press:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The statistics are staggering, but far from new: Three-fifths of Native women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners and one-third of Indian women will be raped during their lifetimes.
In some tribal areas, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average, according to figures from Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women.
But after years of what some Indian women’s rights activists say has largely been a lack of inaction by the authorities, U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales is set to announce the hiring of a tribal prosecutor as special assistant U.S. attorney focused almost exclusively on domestic and sexual assaults on tribal lands in New Mexico.
It’s part of a pilot program by the Office of Violence Against Woman, Gonzales’ office said, that will give funding for the new prosecutors to a handful of U.S. attorneys around the country.
“I think a lot of people will be pleased to see this,” said Corrine Sanchez of Tewa Women United, an intertribal group that was started as support group for women concerned about issues that include the high rates of domestic and sexual crimes. “There is still such a huge lack of prosecution on the U.S. attorney’s side on sexual assaults.”
Likewise, she said, there is a lack of tribal resources to deal with the crimes, mistrust among victims and the complications all victims face when they are assaulted or abused by a family member or loved one.
“It’s a multi-layered issue,” she said. “Because there has been this lack of response there is still a mistrust to report. People feel nothing is being done.”