Posts Tagged ‘Sexual Assault in Indian Country’

Dr. Earl Sutherland, a clinical psychologist in Crow Agency, talks about the teamwork that members of the Child and Adolescent Evaluation Center bring to cases of possible sexual abuse to children on the reservation.  (James Woodcock/Billings Gazette)

Dr. Earl Sutherland, a clinical psychologist in Crow Agency, talks about the teamwork that members of the Child and Adolescent Evaluation Center bring to cases of possible sexual abuse to children on the reservation. (James Woodcock/Billings Gazette)

Props to Susan Olp of the Billings (Mont.) Gazette for this special report on sexual abuse on the Crow Indian Reservation, and on the efforts to combat it.

Few indigenous languages even include words for sexual abuse, and children often speak of being “bothered,” says Michele Stewart, FBI victim specialist in Billings. “Child sexual abuse is not traditional, it is not part of the culture,” Stewart says.

Prosecuting such can be tough in the best cases, and that difficulty can be exacerbated by the fact that many reservation communities are small and isolated, meaning victims often know their attackers. Olp interviews Dr. Earl Sutherland, a clinical psychologist at the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Hospital in Crow Agency:

    “Across the nation, around the world, the research is the same,” he said. “You’re more likely to be abused by someone you know than a stranger. And in a small community, there aren’t many strangers.”

    Sutherland is one of the founders of the Child and Adolescent Referral and Evaluation Center at the hospital. The CARE Center brings together all of the services needed to help child victims of abuse and their families.

Olp’s report also includes this story on the increasing awareness of sexual abuse on reservations, and on the efforts by counselors and others to deal with it:

    According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, violence among early indigenous societies — apart from war — was rare because members of tribes saw it as unnatural and a threat to harmony. The ill treatment that American Indians suffered down through the history of the United States — oppressive policies, racism, forced migration, the introduction of alcohol and the dismantling of families by sending children to boarding schools — have affected traditional Native values, the center says.

    Alcohol fuels violence. And the sexual abuse the Native children suffered in boarding schools was passed down, generation to generation. Poverty and geographic isolation are also contributing factors, according to the center, which authored “Sexual Assault in Indian Country, Confronting Sexual Violence.”

    How many children are abused on reservations is difficult to know. But the federal Indian Health Service estimates that one in every four girls and one in every seven boys in Indian Country will be a victim of sexual abuse.

The stories don’t make for comfortable reading. But it’s impossible to fight a problem without first knowing about it. Olp will follow up these two stories with one tomorrow about efforts by U.S. Attorney’s Office to step up enforcement.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,