The news article “Rape on the Rez,” shares the startling story of a nineteen year old woman who was raped then killed. Marquita Marie Walking Eagle lived on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota where her killer, a seventeen year old classmate, violently attacked her. Her rape is one of many that occur across Indian reservations every year. The domestic abuse and victimization of Indian women is only a reflection of the destruction of Indian sovereignty, culture, and identity that continues to grow.
One in three native women will be raped at least once in their lifetime in the US. I think that we often forget that our society has condemned and placed natives to the most unsustainable and poverty stricken areas in the US causing youth in tribes to turn to gangs, drugs and alcohol. These are used as tools to rape women and keep them in fear and under control of men.
“Alcohol and drug abuse, gangs, poverty and historical trauma have all conspired to produce a cycle of generational sexual abuse on our reservations,” (Indian Country Today).
Tribal deficiency’s allow rape to continue and victims to be blamed. Women often do not report rape for fear they will be ostracized by their community. Timothy Beneke writes in his article Men on Rape: What They Have to Say About Sexual Violence, “so long as rape is regarded as natural, women will be blamed for rape,” (1982:552). Our society holds the generalized idea that rape and any form of sexual violence is in the nature of men and if women are raped they were dressed promiscuously or asking for it. However, there is a lack of justice for native women as federal prosecutes have failed to prosecute 65 percent of crimes on reservations.
“In South Dakota, Native people make up just nine percent of the population but 40 percent of sexual assault cases,” (Indian Country Today).
Native women are much more highly victimized than most women in the US as the result of socially constructed ideals.
This article takes on the approach of a social constructionist perspective because of the influence of outside factors such as drugs and alcohol in the rapes. According to the definition of sexual script, patterns of sexual conduct are set by cultural standards, interpersonal expectations and negotiations and internal processing (Smith 2010). One boy who was interviewed from Walking Eagle’s high school and who also started a gang in his community stated,
“boys rape drunk girls nearly every weekend and if a girl accuses a boy of rape that boy’s family and friends will try to beat up the girl,” (Indian Country Today).
He also said that he was taught to commit violence towards women by his father who had also been physically abusive to women. This is suggesting that violence towards women is learned either through family members or friends from generations. Privilege is only one way to describe what is lacking for women on reservations in the way that young boys are raping women almost as a weekly activity and women have no solutions.
Rape of native women is only a technique of continuous colonization of native people and their land. Gayle S. Rubin writes in Thinking Sex.., “the realm of sexuality also has its internal politics, inequalities, and modes of oppression,” (1984:4). This is evident in the fact that 80 percent of men who commit rape on reservations are not native themselves and are not members of the reservation. It is a continuous cycle on many reservations that has suffered neglect of awareness and dehumanization of Native American women and their dignity.
Read the full story here.