Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board: Indian Leadership for Indian Health

Sexual Assault Prevention Project

Sexual Assault in Indian Country
  Sexual assault in Indian Country has long been a quiet issue despite the growing epidemic.  It is estimated that a sexual assault occurs every 127 seconds in the United States. (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007) American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely than non-Native women to become victims of sexual assault.  (Maze of Injustice, 2007) It’s also estimated that 34.1% of Native women have been raped in their lifetime,  that’s more than 1 in 3 Native women.   This is significantly higher compared to 17.6% of all women (all races)  who have been raped in their lifetime.   (National Violence Against Women Survey, 2006) Sexual assault is also one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005) and 15 of 16 rapists never spend a day in jail. (Crime and Punishment in America, 1999)
  IHS Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI) Background
  Public Law 111-8, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, provided $7,500,000 for the Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI).   For FY 2010, Congress provided an additional $2,500,000 for a total of $10,000,000 in the program.  The purpose of the initiative is to support a national effort by the IHS to address domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) within American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.  The IHS Director decided to fund a one-time, non-recurring demonstration projects intended to expand community-level access to effective Tribal domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programming. 
  Response Circles Sexual Assault Prevention Project
  The Response Circles Sexual Assault Prevention Project, a program of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board was awarded Indian Health Service (IHS) Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI) funding in 2010.  The project was underway six months after its award and thus has been implemented for a total of twenty-three months.  The main objectives at the beginning of this project included:

  • Recruit and obtain tribal approval of four (4) NPAIHB member tribes to participate in the development of “Response Circles”.  Each tribe will receive funding towards sexual assault prevention and awareness efforts.
  • Establish a baseline of reported sexual assault for the participating tribal communities
  • Focus on community prevention and awareness efforts
  • Develop a plan to continue program after three year funding cycle

In 2011, the Response Circles Sexual Assault Prevention Project, in partnership with the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, collaborated to develop the Northwest Collaboration Against Sexual Assault in Tribal Communities Project to assist the forty-three Northwest Tribal communities in establishing a coordinated,  multi-disciplinary and victim-centered response to sexual assault.  These efforts provide training and technical assistance to develop a community-based Sexual Assault Response & Resource Circle (SARRC).  The SARRC’s purpose is to work towards a collaborative response that prioritizes the victim’s needs.  Included in this grant is specialized training for healthcare providers serving tribal communities to become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).  In May 2012, three tribes attended the first Sexual Assault Response & Resource Circle (SARRC) training.  Four to six SARRC member from each tribe participated in the training.  In September 2012, the project held the first Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training.   This training was attended by twenty-one nurses that either work in tribal clinics or in hospitals that serve tribal victims.  There will be a total of three annual SARRC and SANE trainings.  These efforts are funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Project Goals & Objectives for Year Three

  The project received double funding for the third and final year of the project.  During this final year, the project plans to implement additional efforts towards addressing sexual assault:

  • Develop and distribute a social media campaign to the forty-three Northwest tribes focused on sexual assault awareness and prevention.
  • Offer Tribal Sexual Assault Dynamics Trainings in at least nine Northwest tribal communities.
  • Train twenty medical professionals that serve the Northwest tribal communities to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner’s (SANE).
  • Train four to five Northwest tribes on Sexual Assault Response and Resource Circle (SARRC) development and sustainability. 
  • The project will present issues around sexual assault at the NPAIHB Risky Business trainings that serve tribal members and employees from all forty-three Northwest tribes. 
  • Recruit two additional tribes to participate in the Sexual Assault Prevention Project.
    • Each of the project’s participating tribes will use funding to host community awareness events and activities.
    • Each of the project’s participating tribes will use funding to implement a school-based curriculum or youth group addressing sexual assault. 
    • Each of the project’s participating tribal sites will work towards completion of twenty to fifty Victim Experience Surveys.
    • Each of the projects participating tribal sites will have at least ten pre and post Community Readiness Surveys completed by tribal community members and employees.

Benefits and Outcomes for the Northwest Tribes

After almost four years of implementing this project, the tribes have become more receptive to working towards efforts that address this sensitive issue.  The Northwest tribes are receiving several different training opportunities to help identify, approach, respond and prevent sexual assault in their communities.  The direct benefits of these training opportunities include:

  • Up to seventeen tribes will have the opportunity to be trained on developing and sustaining a Sexual Assault Response and Resource Circle (SARRC) for their tribal community to respond and provide resources to victims of sexual assault
  • Up to sixty healthcare providers that serve the forty-three Northwest tribes have the opportunity to be trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).  When that’s broken down it results in all forty-three tribes having the potential to have at least one trained and certified SANE in their community
  • At least nine tribes will have a Tribal Sexual Assault Dynamics Training hosted in their community for a general audience to learn more about the dynamics and prevalence of sexual assault and how it affects Native victims.

The project’s participating sites have all gone to great lengths to hold various community events and train their staff to bring this issue forward and promote awareness.  Some events include: Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Clothesline Project, Community Awareness Dinners and Hands around the Courthouse.  Several tribal advocates have been trained to implement school-based sexual assault prevention curriculums and are holding after-school youth groups to have discussion around the issue.  A culturally-specific sexual assault awareness campaign was disseminated April 2013 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  All campaign materials will be available on the NPAIHB website as well as shipped to the tribes directly.
The first four years of this project are just first step to overcoming walls and barriers that have been held high due to the multi-generations of hurt, shame, guilt and trauma.  It’s becoming more and more evident that tribes are wanting to break the silence and bring this hidden epidemic to light for future generations to come.

About 9 in 10 American Indian victims of rape or sexual assault were estimated to have had assailants who were non-native. (1997 US Department of Justice)
90% of Indian women in chemical dependency treatment are victims of rape and childhood sexual abuse. (1998 Presentation to Federal Bar Association Conference. Henry. Tribal Responses to Violence Against Women. Indian Law Section.)
A report from the American Indian Women’s Chemical Health Project found that 3/4 of Native American women have experienced some type of sexual assault in their lives.
Among communities of color, American Indian/Alaska Native women were most likely to report rape victimization while Asian/Pacific Islander women were least likely to report rape victimization. (US Department of Justice)
The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board is inviting its member tribes to participate in the development of Tribal Sexual Assault Prevention Project.  The effort is funded by a three year grant program which is part of Public Law 111-8; Congress appropriated funds to support a national effort by the IHS to address domestic violence and sexual assault within American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
We are looking for four tribes (we may accept more than four tribes, but not more than ten) that will commit to a three year funded project.  We need tribes that are supported by their Tribal Council to participate in the project.  This Project will assist the Tribes in the development of “Response Circles” that will respond effectively to issues of Sexual Assault in their communities.  They will also work with the Project Coordinator in the development of a Tool Kit that may be distributed to the Member Tribes.
If your tribe is interested in participating in the 5 year program please contact Ryan Ann Swafford- Project Coordinator, Sexual Assault Prevention Project as soon as possible at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call me at 503-416-3304.

What do we want tribes to do?

Obtain appropriate Tribal authorization to participate in a three year program.

1. Establish baseline of reported sexual assault for the tribal community.
2. Develop “Response Circles”
3. Identify the Victim Advocate
4. Develop plan to continue program after 4 year funding cycle