ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) – Cases of domestic violence against indigenous women and children and cases of sexual assault have increased over the past year as nonprofits and social workers have struggled to meet the additional challenges derived from the coronavirus pandemic, advocates said.
Her testimony came at the opening session of a two-day summit focused on ending violence against indigenous women and children. Native American leaders from towns across New Mexico and the Navajo nation gathered virtually for the event.
Advocates for the victims who shared their stories noted the closures and house arrest orders that were instituted in the early months of the pandemic. Many victims of domestic violence were trapped at home with their abusers, believing there was no other place to turn, while advocates themselves faced challenges to work and find new ways to connect with victims and share information. about resources.
They called it a “shadow pandemic,” saying it has had effects on victims, law enforcement and defense groups.
Angel Charley, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Indigenous Women, said tribal advocates and other organizers from Shiprock to Nambe and Santo Domingo used it last year to bolster existing mutual aid networks. They learned many lessons that will help “plant the seeds for change” “as communities begin to emerge from the pandemic,” he said.
“When we return to our meetings and ceremonies, deer dinners, parties and dances, although we will miss some that we lost and loved dearly, the lessons of this last year will not be in vain,” said the mother and member of Laguna Pueblo. “I sincerely hope that when we leave time here together, we will be inspired to make things better: better for our women, better for our children and for all the people we love and who may experience violence in their lives.” .
Charley said it will be different, it has to be.
The coalition, which organized the summit, and its partners have been working for decades to address an issue that only in recent years began to headline as more indigenous people disappeared or appeared dead. Native American women have been the victims of staggering rates, with federal figures showing that, along with non-Hispanic black women, they have experienced the highest homicide rates.
An Associated Press investigation conducted in 2018 found that no one knows exactly how many cases of missing and murdered Native Americans occur across the country because many cases are not reported, others are not well documented, and no government database makes them a specific monitoring.
Sherriann Moore is deputy director of the Tribal Affairs Division of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women. He told summit attendees that some programs have been reorganized to address tribal concerns about bureaucratic barriers to accessing assistance and funding grants.
Moore also discussed the spending proposed by the Biden administration to address violence against women. He said the $ 1 billion recommendation would nearly double the current budget and include money for new programs ranging from restorative justice and protections for transgender victims to support for women in tribal colleges and universities.
He urged tribal leaders to pressure Congress for more funding and to push for the reauthorization of federal laws, including the Violence Against Women Act and the Tribal Law and Order Act.
Gail Starr, clinical coordinator of the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Collaborative Collaboration, said the pandemic helped illuminate the poor safety net, especially for survivors of sexual assault and other violence. . She and others talked about the need to find safe housing for themselves and even cell phones so they could have a way to help.
Pojoaque Pueblo Governor Jenelle Roybal said her community north of Santa Fe is starting a pilot project in which tribal police will partner with the U.S. Marshals Service in cases of missing and murdered indigenous victims. The people are also focused on educating the young members of the tribe about healthy relationships.
Roybal said education will be key to stopping the cycle, noting that half of U.S. women and homeless children are fleeing domestic violence.
“When you think about all the women and kids who don’t get the help they need, it’s very annoying,” she said. “Just moving forward and helping each other is definitely what we need to do.”