“There is one statistic that stands out for me above all others: A Native American female baby has a 1-in-3 chance of being sexually assaulted in her lifetime,” Purdon wrote.
He referenced his visits to the state’s reservations to consult with the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold since being sworn in on August 24, 2010. At the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s March 16 conference on public safety in Bismarck, sexual violence emerged at the forefront of issues.
Fewer than half of rapes or sexual assaults against women were reported in 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics. “Now aware of the grim statistical fate that awaits so many Native women, I find myself reflecting on their 1-in-3 chance of sexual assault when I go to a pow-wow and see a group of three 7-year-old jingle dancers walk out into the sunlight to begin their dance or when I see an extended Native family of grandmother, mother and daughter pumping gas at a convenience store,” Purdon said.
Purdon urged North Dakotans to take a stand against sexual abuse, whether that means volunteering at a local abused women’s shelter, focusing on charitable giving toward efforts to address the issue, or talking with their civic group or house of worship about getting involved on the reservations. “Many sexual-assault victims suffer severe long-term physical and emotional difficulties,” stated Purdon.
Read Purdon’s full editorial Help stop sexual violence in North Dakota tribal communities.