Posted by on Jan 19, 2018 in Featured

Nooksack Councilwoman Files State Court Suits Alleging Cyber Sexual Harassment and Physical Abuse

Nooksack Councilwoman Files State Court Suits Alleging Cyber Sexual Harassment and Physical Abuse

Bellingham, WA – Yesterday (January 17th 2018) Carmen Tageant, a Nooksack Tribal Councilperson and a mother of seven, filed the second of two lawsuits in Whatcom County Superior Court against individuals who have cyber harassed and physically assaulted her.

The cyber-harassment lawsuit alleges that since 2016, a John Doe defendant has used a fake Facebook profile to intimidate, harass, and humiliate her. The defendant once posted a personal, private photo of Tageant in lingerie that was stolen from her home, writing, “I LOVE YOU ALL!”

The defendant’s post of nonconsensual pornography invited misogynistic and hateful Facebook comments to and about Tageant, such as: “spreading her lies and legs[,]” “lol she’s shameful[,]” “whatever it takes[,]” “oh snap…she loves u[,]” and “Ohhh…..Carmen T….ya duct tape can’t fix her stupidity[.]”

Tageant reported the abuse to Facebook, and to Nooksack law enforcement authorities on several occasions, to no avail. She is not proposed for disenrollment at Nooksack but has opposed the controlling Tribal Council faction’s efforts to disenroll and exile over 300 tribal members, since she took Tribal Council office in 2014. Tageant’s stance has also put her at odds with Nooksack Tribal cops who answer only to the faction.

As a result, Tageant alleges that “nothing meaningful has been done by law enforcement to investigate the harassment she has endured from Defendant John Doe . . . or to ascertain Defendant John Doe’s true identity.” She says she “now hopes to obtain answers, and justice, through this civil proceeding.” Tageant intends to subpoena Facebook to learn the defendant’s true identity.

In her first lawsuit, which Tageant filed last week, she alleges that purported Nooksack Police Chief Mike Ashby assaulted and battered her on January 5, 2018, as she attempted to file for re-election to the Nooksack Tribal Council.

According to sworn affidavit testimony from Tageant:

Mr. Ashby then forcefully grabbed both of my arms above the elbows and pushed me back. His actions were without provocation. Surprised . . . I stated, “what are you doing? Don’t touch me.” . . . Mr. Ashby again reached for me, and out of fear of being assaulted again, I stepped away out of his reach and told him not to put his hands on me again. . . . I feared what would happen if I stayed; so, I walked back to the safety of my car. As I drove away . . . Mr. Ashby came outside and made a point of making eye contact with and smirking at me.

In reference to a December 23, 2016, letter from the U.S. Interior Department about unlawful Nooksack police practices, Tageant alleges that because Ashby “lacked any tribal or federal law enforcement authority . . . [h]e acted in his personal capacity that afternoon.” According to the Everett Herald, Ashby was fired from the Ferndale Police Department in 2004 for violating department policy, before starting work at Nooksack.

Ashby reviewed at least three complaints that Tageant filed with the Nooksack Police Department in 2016 regarding her harassment. She alleges that by March 2017, Nooksack tribal police never provided any of those complaints, or the related evidence she furnished, to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office for investigation.

The January 5th incident, which Tageant alleges caused her emotional trauma according to medical and mental health professionals, also caused her to bring the second lawsuit about her harassment in 2016 and 2017.

Both of her actions come amidst the expanding public discourse surrounding men who abuse positions of power on Indian reservations, to harm and harass Indian women. A blog about these dynamics, “The Native Harvey Weinsteins,” authored by Dr. Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee Nation citizen and professor at Brown University, went viral in late 2017.

Dr. Keene observed that “one in three of our [Native] women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes . . . 70% of these assaults are committed by non-Native men. But that still means 30% come from within our communities. And these are only the reported numbers. Imagine how many more go unreported.”

In her second suit Tageant alludes to the fact that Indian female complaints of abuse like hers since 2016 generally go unreported or unanswered by tribal, state or federal law enforcement. She alleges: “Defendant John Doe has exploited the fact that abuse like what he has inflicted upon [her], as an Indian woman, more often than not falls through the cracks.”

Tageant hopes her lawsuits will also inspire other Native women who have survived violence or harassment by men in Indian Country to step forward and join her in speaking out against the injustice.

Editor’s Note: The referenced Whatcom County Superior Court Complaints, and sworn affidavit, are each attached.