Charon Asetoyer, CEO of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, (NAWHERC) vividly recalls the afternoon a Native mother visited her office and asked her what she should say to her teen daughter when she gets raped.
“She didn’t use the word “if,” she used the word “when,” because our women, especially young women have the highest rates of sexual assault of any ethnicity in the country,” Asetoyer said.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other groups.
“I can’t even put into words how awful hearing this made me feel,” Asetoyer recalls.
Asetoyer and her colleagues at NAWHERC located in Lake Andes, South Dakota decided to take action and created a handbook, “What to Do When You Are Raped; An ABC Handbook for Native Girls.”
“Due to complicated issues related to jurisdiction, most often there is not an arrest made of the perpetrator. Therefore, Native American women are denied protection and due process of the law. On federal lands it is the responsibility of the federal government to handle these crimes. We can no longer wait for the government to decide if and when they are going to live up to their responsibility. As a community response, one of the things we can do is assist our relatives who have been harmed and to help them with the healing process. It is important for a person that has been sexually assaulted to know that they are not alone and that there is always somewhere to turn to for help. The sooner you tell someone what has happened to you the sooner you will begin to realize that you are not alone and that you have support in dealing with the assault,” Asetoyer said.
The booklet explains, for instance, that Native women and girls are entitled to receive Plan B emergency contraception from any pharmacy including Indian Health Service pharmacies without any restrictions.
Most importantly, the booklet informs women and girls that assault is not their fault, they didn’t’ deserve it and offers a list of resources.