US House to Hear Testimony on Sexual Violence Against Native American and Alaska Native Women

For Immediate Release

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AIUSA press office, 202-544-0200x302, lspann@aiusa.org

US House to Hear Testimony on Sexual Violence Against Native American and Alaska Native Women

Hearing Follows Allocation of Significant Funding to IHS and BIA to Combat Epidemic of Violence;

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House Interior and
Environment Appropriations subcommittee will hear testimony Wednesday from
a leading Native American expert on sexual violence against Native American
and Alaska Native women. The testimony comes following passage of the Fiscal
Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which made significant progress addressing
sexual violence in Indian Country, and in preparation for drafting the
Fiscal Year 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.  

Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the
Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center and chair of
the Native American and Alaska Native Advisory Council for Amnesty International
USA's Stop Violence Against Women campaign, will deliver testimony to
the subcommittee on March 25, 2009. She will speak about the epidemic of
sexual violence against Indigenous women and ways that federal funding
and programs can help combat it.

The FY'09 Omnibus Appropriations Act included
a $235 million and $85 million increase in funding from the Fiscal Year
2008 levels for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA) respectively. The explanatory statement accompanying the
legislation included detailed language on sexual violence against Native
American and Alaska Native women and directed the BIA to partner with the
IHS, community advocates and tribal leaders to establish clear standards
of practice and standardized protocols for responding to sexual assaults.
 The language also directed the BIA to provide training programs that
develop culturally sensitive protocols, including the collection and preservation
of evidence for prosecution, for officers in the field who are most often
the first to respond to incidences of sexual assault.

"We are pleased that the House Appropriations
Committee is setting high standards for federal agencies responsible for
combating sexual violence against Indigenous women in 2009, and we fully
believe that the Obama administration will deliver in meeting those expectations,"
Asetoyer said.

In 2007, AIUSA published Maze of Injustice:
The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA,
a report documenting that sexual violence against Native American and
Alaska Native women is at epidemic levels. Asetoyer, who was interviewed
for and consulted on the report, will speak to the need for the creation
of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs in all IHS hospitals as well
as the importance of ongoing consultation between the BIA, IHS and Native
women on how to create and implement the mandated standardized sexual assault
protocols and training for responding to cases of sexual violence against
Native women.

"The House Appropriations Committee is setting
an excellent example of how government officials should respond to reports
of human rights violations in the United States," added Renata Rendón,
government relations director for Amnesty International USA. "We look
forward to continued work with both the House and Senate on addressing
this particularly brutal form of violent crime against Native American
and Alaska Native women in the United States."

The U.S. Department of Justice's own statistics
indicate that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two
and a half times more likely than women in the United States in general
to be raped or sexually assaulted. In order to achieve justice, Native
American and Alaska Native victims of sexual violence frequently have to
navigate a complex maze of federal, state, tribal and local law. In addition,
the agencies responsible for responding to this violence are severely underfunded,
and their services are far from adequate to ensure that required law enforcement
and medical attention are supplied.

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