Posted by on Aug 27, 2018 in Featured

Report from Native organization reveals alarming rates of sexual violence against Seattle’s Native women

Report from Native organization reveals alarming rates of sexual violence against Seattle’s Native women

Everyone has known that sexual violence in our community has been a major issue for a long time, but nobody was willing to talk about it,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Chief Research Officer of Seattle Indian Health Board and UIHI Director. “We can’t count on others outside of our people to start the conversation if they refuse to even acknowledge that there’s a problem. If we don’t start the conversation ourselves, then nobody ever will.”  ~Abigail Echo-Hawk Chief Research Officer for Seattle Indian Health Board and UIHI Director

Seattle, Wash — Seattle Indian Health Board hosted a community event on August 22 to discuss a report released today by Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) finding alarmingly high rates of sexual violence against predominantly homeless or low-income Native women in Seattle, Wash.

UIHI, the research arm of Seattle Indian Health Board, found that 94% of the women who participated in the survey experienced rape or were coerced into sex in their lifetime.

The report highlights first-of-its-kind data around behavioral health and historical trauma as it relates to sexual violence against Native women who live in urban areas. Approximately 71% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in urban areas.

The survey was conducted in 2010 with 148 Native women who, at the time, were 18 years of age or older, resided in Seattle, and self-identified as American Indian or Alaska Native.

Abigail Echo-Hawk, Chief Research Officer for Seattle Indian Health Board and UIHI Director, authored the report and stated that because of differing viewpoints from UIHI’s past leadership, the report was never shared publicly.

“It is our responsibility as an organization, and as Native people, to honor the resilient women who participated in the survey and share this information, so we can begin to figure out ways of healing for our community,” Echo-Hawk said.

More than half of the women who participated in the survey lacked permanent housing at the time of the survey, and since the survey was conducted, homelessness in Seattle has increased by a third from 9,022 people in 2010 to 12,112 in 2018, according to King County’s annual Point in Time Count reports.

During the community discussion, members from numerous tribes and representatives from various Native organizations discussed the

report and began identifying steps that need to be taken around policy, research, programming, and policing to initiate change.

“This will be the first of many discussions that will take place around sexual violence in our community,” said Debora Juarez, Councilmember of Seattle City Council. “We have always known that the rates of sexual violence against Native women was high, but it’s going to take others to acknowledge it as well and to do something about it, and that needs to happen now.”

UIHI is seeking further funding to conduct more surveys nationwide that focus on sexual violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“The significance of the report lies within the strength of the women who were brave enough to tell their stories,” said Susan Balbas, Executive Director and Co-founder of Na’ah Illahee Fund. “With attention being brought to a number of issues that stem from sexual violence, such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and the need for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, their stories have the potential to save lives.”

Link to “Our Bodies Our Stories” report: www.uihi.org

Key findings from report:

  • 94% of the women surveyed had been raped or coerced into sex in their lifetime
  • 42% of victims of rape or coercion attempted suicide in their lifetime of the women surveyed
  • 53% of the women surveyed lacked permanent housing
  • 34% of the women surveyed binge drank on a weekly or daily basis after their attack
  • Only 8% of cases of a rape victim’s first attack ended in conviction
  • 86% of the women surveyed reported being affected by historical trauma