Sexual Violence in a Native American Community: Native American Women Speak Out
Olive, Victoria Catherine
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Researchers utilizing quantitative methods have established that sexual violence against Native American women is a severe and persistent problem in Native American communities. Currently, Native American women suffer some of the highest and most violent rates of sexual victimization in the United States; experts estimate that between one-third and one-fourth of Native American women will be sexually victimized in their lifetimes. Researchers conducting qualitative research on sexual violence against Native American women have explained that, not only are Native American women outraged and highly critical of this issue, but that Native American women desire for their perspectives, knowledge, and experiences to be legitimized and validated. Additionally, scholars from a variety of disciplines have also demonstrated that sexual violence against Native American women must be contextualized within the historical and intersecting legacies of colonialism, sexism, racism, and genocide. However, qualitative, interview-based research in the field of sexual violence against Native American women has not been widely pursued and has thus afforded the women whom this issue most affects extremely limited opportunities to speak out about sexual violence in their communities. This research, then, based on feminist methodology and practices, was an effort to fill this gap and prioritize the voices of Native American women. I conducted semi-structured interviews with three Native American women from a tribe in the greater Tacoma area about their perspectives and experiences regarding sexual violence against Native American women in their community. As a result of this research, the overarching argument I make is twofold. I contend that, as researchers, we must make a conscious effort to acknowledge, validate, and legitimize the knowledge Native American women have of colonialism and how it intersects with sexual violence and violent victimizations against Native American women and other community members. In doing so, we can support the activism that is already present in Native American communities and encourage the empowerment of Native American women and community members to continuously deconstruct intersecting oppressions and decolonize their communities.