'Hearts on the Ground' discusses sexual violence in indigenous communities from a historical perspective.
The statistics themselves are dulling and don’t convey the reality and complexity of the situation. Somewhere around 33% of Native Americans have experienced sexual violence according to the Department of Justice. In a community that has survived genocide, starvation, disease, poverty and subjugation since first contact, having one in three of their own brutalized by sexual violence is an epidemic that brings home the reality that not much has changed on the reservation since forced relocation. This is an epidemic with its roots in 600 years of history.
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) one in three Native women will experience rape in their lifetimes, with 86% of perpetrators being non-Native. That is an astonishing figure and highly unusual in sexual violence cases. Across other demographics, perpetrators tend to act within their own racial groups. To compound the issue, 68% of sexual violence cases on the reservation are refused by the DOJ for prosecution. In citing these numbers to me Tina Olson, Executive Director of Mending the Sacred Hoop, told me “what’s that about if it’s not about creating a vulnerable group?”