In response to a recent Amnesty International report detailing the disproportionately high levels of rape and other forms of sexual abuse committed against Native American women, the US House of Representatives has authorized $2 million in funding to protect Native women from sexual assault. Passed by a 412-18 vote, the budget amendment calls for the allocation of $1 million to create a tribal sex offender registry and for an additional $1 million to fund a baseline study on violence against Native women.Not to state the obvious or anything, but a sex offender registry doesn't actually protect women from rape. In theory, it identifies convicted rapists so that women can avoid them, but in reality, that's just another way of handing the responsibility of rape prevention to women, which, as we know, doesn't stop rape.
Meanwhile, a baseline study on violence against Native women may, in the long term, help with the development of practical violence prevention strategies, but is not in the here and now going to do anything to immediately begin to combat that violence.
And if I sound cynical about its potential to manifest as superb rape prevention strategies, well, there's a good reason for that—it's because I am cynical. It's not like there have never been studies on what works and doesn't work as regards combating violence against women; over and over we see that educating men and promoting egalitarianism is what works. But was a fucking dime of that $2 million earmarked for educating men about rape? Nope.
Nor was there any funding or legislation that would immediately solve some already-identified problems:
At least 86 percent of these assaults are committed by non-Native men, yet these non-Native perpetrators are rarely prosecuted or punished, Amnesty found, due to a complex maze of tribal, state, and federal jurisdictions. A still-standing 1978 Supreme Court ruling renders tribal governments unable to prosecute non-Indian criminal defendants, even if the alleged crime took place on tribal land. The authority of tribal justice systems has been further undermined by chronic under-funding and a lack of adequate resources like rape kits and nurses. As a result, many crimes go unreported by victims who are frustrated by the untimely response of understaffed tribal authorities and the lack of successful prosecutions.Now I'm not sure why, if it takes $1 million to set up a sex offender registry and $1 million to do a study, more funding was not provided to address these issues. (Maybe that $85 billion tax break Bush gave the top 1% wasn't such a good idea after all, huh?) But let's say there was only $2 million to spare—might it have been wiser to prioritize the things that will actually help convict rapists? That sex offender registry doesn't do very much damn good if there's no one on it because of unreported rapes and unsuccessful prosecutions. Ahem.
And, call me crazy, but it seems to me that getting known rapists off the street might help curb rape, too. In the fucking short term.
Ultimately, all of this horseshit can be explained by returning to the first paragraph of the post, which notes that "indigenous women are at least twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as other women in the US. One in every three indigenous women will be raped or sexually abused in their lifetime."
One in every three.
Instead of the usual, acceptable, unremarkable one in every six.
One in three gets you $2 million in funding.
To label rapists and do a study.
One in three.
And this is the best we can do.