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    Alaska: Report says 1 in 3 women will fall victim to the crime and government is to blame.

     

    System faulted for high

    Alaska Native rape rate

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Report says 1 in 3 women will fall victim to the crime and government is to blame. By ALEX deMARBAN Anchorage Daily News Published: April 25, 2007 Last Modified: April 25, 2007 at 02:08 PM One in three Alaska Native and American Indian women will be raped during their lifetime and it's the federal government's fault, an Amnesty International study reported Tuesday. Federal authorities have created a "maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions" that slows response times and limits who can respond, according to the study. Sexual assaults and rapes on reservations and in villages sometimes get lost in "jurisdictional vacuums," allowing some perpetrators to "rape with impunity." The study cites "shockingly high" Justice Department statistics that Native women in the United States are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than other U.S. women, Amnesty officials said. The federal government has shortchanged tribal health services and law enforcement and eroded tribal authority to respond to sexual crimes, the global human rights group said. The state government in Alaska is contributing by restricting tribal governments from "exercising criminal jurisdiction while at the same time failing to provide adequate law enforcement," according to a 113-page study released in Washington, D.C., by the group. Alaska officials said they're working to get more manpower and money to areas lacking police. Researchers focused on three regions -- Alaska, Oklahoma and a Sioux reservation in North and South Dakota -- interviewing numerous victims, advocates and tribal, state and federal officials in 2005 and 2006, and harvesting data from previously published reports. Alaska has the nation's highest per-capita rate of forcible rape, with a disproportional number of rape and sexual assault victims being Native women, said Denise Morris, Alaska Native Justice Center executive director, who attended the press conference. For example, Alaska Native people in Anchorage were 9.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than others living in the city between 2000 and 2003, according to one study cited in the report. "My eyes fill with tears and my heart is often heavy when I think of all the individuals that I know personally who have been touched with brutal violence," Morris said, including a family member who never reported being raped by two people because she thought it would do no good. Alaska contends that statehood in 1959 extinguished the criminal jurisdiction of Native villages, according to the study. As a result, the state investigates sexual assaults and rapes in villages. But police coverage is woeful, the study says. Some 65 villages have no local police. In those villages, plus dozens of others with unarmed local officers and limited authority, sexual assaults can't be investigated until troopers arrive from larger communities. That can take hours, sometimes days in stormy or foggy weather, allowing crucial evidence to disappear. More than 200 Alaska villages lack sexual assault response teams to collect evidence and interview victims after a rape. As a result, some village victims may have to pay to fly to a hospital or clinic in a larger community, the study found. During the press conference, Larry Cox, Amnesty's executive director, recounted a brutal rape in a Western Alaska village in 2005, when a man beat his wife with a shotgun and barricaded himself in a house with four children. During the four hours it took troopers in Bethel to get to Nunam Iqua, 150 miles away, the man raped a 13-year-old girl on a bed with an infant crying beside her. The slow responses, plus the lack of manpower, causes victims to underreport crimes. They have little hope attackers will be prosecuted, he said. Walt Monegan, public safety commissioner, acknowledged there's not enough law enforcement in Alaska. He's drafting plans to create a system that will encourage villagers to become local officers and, eventually, state troopers. It will require legislative approval and should be introduced in Juneau next year, he said. Gov. Sarah Palin hadn't seen the Amnesty report, said spokeswoman Sharon Leighow early Thursday afternoon. Palin "has heard the message from the rural communities that they need more law enforcement" and is working with Monegan to increase law enforcement there, she said. The report recommends Congress increase funds for the Indian Health Service, saying the agency doesn't provide enough money to pay for sexual-assault nurse examiners or the equipment to provide forensic exams. The agency is obligated by federal law to meet the health care needs of Alaska Natives and American Indians. Dianne Dawson, public affairs specialist at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., said no one was available to comment. The report also suggested that Congress fully fund and implement the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. Co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, it reauthorized an old law, but included a new provision to put more money toward violence against Indian and Native women. It will pay for a broader study of violence against Natives and American Indian women, Murkowski said. That could provide better statistics, giving decision makers a greater case to argue for increased funding. Murkowski, a former state representative, said the state's law enforcement system is so minimal that it can't be called law enforcement in many places. She stopped short of placing blame on anyone. "I think everyone has to claim ownership when we have statistics like this," she said. "We need to acknowledge ... that this is doing damage to lives at a level that's not acceptable." "We all have a lot of work to do." Daily News reporter Alex deMarban can be reached at ademarban@adn.com. Key findings of rape study 1 in 3 Native and American Indian women raped in their lifetimes 2.5 times higher rape rate for Native women than other U.S. women 9.7 times more Native women sexually assaulted than other women in Anchorage from 2000 to 2003

    adn.com | crime : System faulted for high Alaska Native rape rate

    www.adn.com/news/alaska/crime/story/8825231p-8726532c.html - 62k -

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