The XX Factor

Rape and Racism

Anna, Anna, Anna.

I am truly just so glad I procrastinated about posting on the South African rape epidemic because your entry sizzles as only a talented native’s could. Mine would have been standard-issue, preaching to the choir, feminist outrage, however on point. But this line of yours, in particular, froze my vertebra to the back of my chair:  “I wanted to undo the crushing thought that when I am in my hometown, every time I board a bus or walk along the street or enter a classroom, I’m pressing up against rapist after rapist after rapist.”

Nicely done, intern-girl.

Unless DoubleX plans on coming up with a Native American intern, I’ll contextualize Jo’Burg’s rape crisis with that on Native American reservations; for those not in the know, violent crime is endemic there with rape featuring prominently. But there’s a twist.

According to Mother Jones , “The rate of violent crime among Native Americans is  twice the national average (PDF); on some reservations, it’s 20 times higher. At least  one in three American Indian women will be raped (PDF) in their lifetime. Yet just 3,000 tribal and  Bureau of Indian Affairs ( BIA ) officers-the only kinds of cops with jurisdiction on Indian land-patrol 56 million acres. In 2008, the  Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas had nine officers for 9,000 people in an area twice the size of Delaware. (A typical town with the same population has three times that number.) Tribal courts can only prosecute misdemeanors such as petty theft and public intoxication. They can’t issue sentences longer than one year without meeting special criteria, and even then, three years is the maximum. More serious crimes  must be handled by federal prosecutors, who  turn down 65 percent (PDF) of the reservation cases referred to them.”

Here’s the twist:  “Non-Indians commit two-thirds of violent crimes against Indians, including 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults. Yet thanks to a  1978 Supreme Court ruling , tribes can not prosecute outsiders who commit crimes on their land. (The case involved a white guy who’d assaulted a tribal police officer and another who’d attempted a high-speed getaway from reservation cops.)”

So, non-Native Americans commit most of the crime on reservations, knowing they will almost certainly not be prosecuted.

Read MoJo ’s piece to see how the natives have, sadly but unsurprisingly, responded.