Monday, December 10, 2012

White Rapists, Native Women, and Diplomatic Immunity

I'm encouraged - and I want to talk more in depth about this - that rape culture in the US among males and females is in sharp decline the last few decades. It's truly magnificent. It's like racial oppression's decline in government and society since the 60's. Which, as I'm sure long-time readers of the Left Cheek will know, doesn't mean that we can claim victory. Anybody who's been paying attention to politics and national events will know that the US still remains a very racist and misogynist county. Not just among the Republicans, either.

But, damn, they sure know how to illustrate and blow up trends. Take these two coming in at a perfect storm under nationalist Eric Cantor:

[The Violence Against Woman Act], which has been reauthorized consistently for 18 years with little fanfare, was, for the first time, left to expire in Sept. 2011. The sticking point has been new protections for three particularly vulnerable groups: undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBT community and Native Americans. The additions are supported by Democrats and opposed by House Republicans, who are calling them politically driven.

(All boldings, italicizing and underlinings are mine. I'd add arrows if I could.)

Only in retrograde ConservativeLand can you decry protections for vulnerable groups as being "politically driven."

Finally, after stalling on these amendments and letting the bill expire in September of this year, House Majority Leader Cantor is meeting with Joe Biden to push through a bill (House Republicans pushed through a version of the bill without the amendments earlier). And yet, Cantor is stalling on one of the issues.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy... explained the provision, probably the least understood of the three additions in the Senate bill: It gives tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal lands. Currently, federal and state law enforcement have jurisdiction over domestic violence on tribal lands, but in many cases, they are hours away and lack the resources to respond to those cases. Tribal courts, meanwhile, are on site and familiar with tribal laws, but lack the jurisdiction to address domestic violence on tribal lands when it is carried out by a non-Native American individual.

Sounds reasonable, right? I mean, if a crime is committed by a tourist in another land and to a native of that land, you expect the place where the crime is committed to have jurisdiction, right? Especially since the place is, y'know, local and therefore, can access the scene of the crime and the victim and any available witnesses and parties at a reasonable time and with adequate knowledge of the local lay of the land. It's very reasonable, considering that other jurisdictions are usually busy enough trying to take care of their own areas. I mean, you would assume it was reasonable.

Well, unless the perp happens to be male and American and the alleged victim happens to be female and indigenous (We've already talked about how indigenous people are immensely mistreated by colonial and dominant [read: White] cultures). I mean, how dare anyone suggest that another country would or could possibly try a good ol' boy USA si-ti-zin.

That means non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on tribal lands are essentially "immune from the law, and they know it," Leahy said.

They can get away with rape - because they have...

Diplomatic Immunity!
image courtesy of
As a result of this immunity, 86% (yes. Eighty-six PERCENT) of rapes of tribal women on tribal lands are done by non-tribal men, according to a report by Amnesty International.

Now, this report is important to read. Because in it, you don't just get a story of an angry white male leftist angry with the angry white male Republicans and so forth. This isn't just a story of injustice in Washington, DC or the injustice of voting for the wrong guy. No, that's an obvious component of injustice. But the real injustice is how Native women are treated for the fact that they are Natives and they are women - and then that they are sexual abuse survivors.

Because we can talk all day about who is obstructing whose what in the less-than-sacred halls of Wallhalla, District of Columbia. But what of a support worker near Fairbanks who had been shamed into anonymity by the sheer factor that she is Indigenous, female, and had been sexually assaulted?


In July 2006 an Alaska Native woman in Fairbanks reported to the police that she had been raped by a non-Native man. She gave a description of the alleged perpetrator and city police officers told her that they were going to look for him. She waited for the police to return and when they failed to do so, she went to the emergency room for treatment. A support worker told Amnesty International that the woman had bruises all over her body and was so traumatized that she was talking very quickly. She said that, although the woman was not drunk, the Sexual Assault Response Team nevertheless “treated her like a drunk Native woman first and a rape victim second”. The support worker described how the woman was given some painkillers and some money to go to a non-Native shelter, which turned her away because they also assumed that she was drunk: “This is why Native women don’t report. It’s creating a breeding ground for sexual predators.


This view of Disposable Lives is prevalent in most cultures. But why, Oh why, in such a "Christian"-predominant one as the US. As Alaska? Why treat others as less-thans when we are all human and, according to Christian theology, all made in the image of God and all bearing the love of the Christ? Why are these lives treated as if they are invisible? Why are there stories trivialized that - even in the protection of - they are treated as political fodder?


Over the past decade, federal government studies have consistently shown that American Indian and Alaska Native women experience much higher levels of sexual violence than other women in the USA. Data gathered by the US Department of Justice indicates that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.
A US Department of Justice study on violence against women concluded that 34.1 per cent of American Indian and Alaska Native women – or more than one in three – will be raped during their lifetime; the comparable figure for the USA as a whole is less than one in five.
Shocking though these statistics are, it is widely believed that they do not accurately portray the extent of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.
“Most women who are beaten or raped don’t report to the police. They just shower and go to the clinic [for treatment].”
Native American survivor of sexual violence (identity withheld), February 2006
Amnesty International’s interviews with survivors, activists and support workers across the USA suggest that available statistics greatly underestimate the severity of the problem. In the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, for example, many of the women who agreed to be interviewed could not think of any Native women within their community who had not been subjected to sexual violence.
These stories are ignored, these women abused disproportionately, these survivors out of reach of justice and appropriate medical attention. This continues to happen not just because Eric Cantor is a big meanie. But because in the big scheme of things, what does it matter if Native women and their communities are adequately prepared and taken care of?

The tremendous - as in Visible-From-Space - racism and sexism  in the GOP isn't helping. After all, just because you don't care about certain groups or they're invisible from your point of sight doesn't mean they don't need protections. But not only that, there is the hubris that only those who come up through and are within a White Man's system of "justice" are capable of administering justice to White Men.

The two sources say, to Cantor's credit, his staff has said they're willing to try to come up with other solutions to responding to violence against women on tribal lands, as long as the solution doesn't give tribes jurisdiction over the matter.

That, as you may have noticed, is NOT to Cantor's credit.

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