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Amnesty International report offers recommendations

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MCLAUGHLIN, S.D. - The majority of American Indian women are raped and beaten by non-Indian men, according to information given by anti-domestic violence programs.

How and where to report violence or rape, and how to acquire prosecution and sustain an order for protection, become questions unanswered in many cases.

The recent Amnesty International report, ''Maze of Injustice - The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA,'' points out the failures of the federal government to properly protect women and prosecute perpetrators.

The report gathered information from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, as well as from Oklahoma and Alaska. Standing Rock is a sprawling reservation that encompasses 2.3 million acres of land and is home to some 18,000 people. The reservation has communities that are also home to many non-Indian people since it is an integrated population.

Rape and violence is not reported often enough, according to experts, because women believe nothing will be done.

On Standing Rock there are seven law enforcement officers and, at times, only one on duty.

Recommendations that came from AI include consultation and cooperation between federal, state and tribal governments, and also including women to develop plans of action to stop the violence.

Comprehensive data on rape and other sexual violence should be developed in consultation with the tribes and women to show where such offenses take place, the number referred for prosecution and the cases that were declined and why.

AI recommended that Congress recognize that tribal authorities have jurisdiction over all offenders who commit crimes within the exterior boundaries of the reservations regardless of their ethnic identity. Tribes should have the authority to impose sentences commensurate with the crime, and federal authorities should take additional steps to make the necessary funding available to enable tribes to develop a court system to operate effectively.

Prompt response to any violent act was also recommended, and that would require the federal government to take steps toward making adequate resources available in order to complete thorough investigations. All police should work closely with women's organizations to develop and implement appropriate investigative protocols for handling cases of sexual violence, the report advised.

''People don't know this is going on in the United States; that women, Native American women, are going through this,'' said Georgia Little Shield, director of the Pretty Bird Woman House in McClaughlin on Standing Rock.