• Athena Ives


From Life, the Media and now... from Data

According to Dr. Sandi Pierce, a leading sex trafficking researcher and Native American Scholar, “the selling of North America’s Indigenous women and children for sexual purposes has been an ongoing practice since the colonial era. There is evidence that early British surveyors and settlers viewed Native women’s sexual and reproductive freedom as proof of their ‘innate’ impurity, and that many assumed the right to kidnap, rape, and prostitute Native women and girls without consequence” (Pierce & Koepplinger, 2011).

In 2015, a survey was taken from four different sites covering the US and Canada, 40 percent of known human sex trafficking survivors identified as Native American or Indigenous. According to research Native Americans arrested for prostitution are disproportionately high. In Hennepin Country, Minnesota, the percentage of Native American’s arrested for prostitution was 25 percent, in Anchorage, Alaska 33 percent, and Winnipeg, Manitoba 50 percent. Something to take into consideration is that Native American women in these areas make up less than 10 percent of the general population (Sweet, 2015).

Not only are Native American Women being trafficked for sex, but they are also disturbingly vulnerable to be raped, physically assaulted, and murdered. According to congressional findings one out of every three Native American Women will be raped in their lifetime, six out of 10 will be physically assaulted, twice more likely to be stalked than other women, and 10 times more likely to be murdered. They found that 88 percent of these violent crimes are perpetrated by Non-Native Americans. According to researchers, the data is likely to be much lower due to the lack of reporting and missing person reports not being taken seriously (Brunner, 2013). There is also a lack of sexual assault response team (SART) programs on or near Native American Lands. According to findings, out of the 650 Census-designated Native American Lands, 381 reported no SART programs within an hour away (Juraska, Wood, Giroux, & Wood, 2014).

According to the United States National Library of Medicine response and recovery rates of African American and Native American children are significantly lower and take longer than Caucasian children. There are three main reasons for this: (1) Lack of media attention which directly impacts recovery time. (2) Socio-Economic status has a significant impact on the necessary recourses for recovery. (3) Race and gender have been found to influence the response of the police (Van De Rijt, Song, Shor, & Burroway, 2018).

In a study conducted in Minnesota on 105 survivors of sex trafficking 84 percent had been physically assaulted, 79 percent of the women had been sexually abused as children by an average of four perpetrators, 2 percent suffered traumatic brain injuries, 71 percent had symptoms of dissociation, and 52 percent had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A rate that is in the range of PTSD among combat veterans (Farley, Matthews, Deer, Lopez, Stark & Hudon, 2011). These survivors reported that the most helpful forms of treatment were their Native American cultural practices and they expressed the desire to have these practices more recognized in social services and mainstream treatment facilities. They also stated that their cultural beliefs were the main reason they survived. The top two helpful practices were Women’s Circles and Sweat Lodges (Farley et al., 2011).


Brunner, L. (2013). “The Devastating Impact of Human Trafficking of Native Women on Indian Reservations.” Testimony of Lisa Brunner before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Hearing on “Combating Human Trafficking: Federal, State, and Local Perspectives.” September 23, 2013.

Farley, M., Matthews, N., Deer, S., Lopez, G., Stark C., and Hudon, E. (2011). Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN: William Mitchell College of Law. Retrieved from: http:// www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdfs/Garden_of_Truth_Final_Project_WEB.pdf.

Juraska , A., Wood, L., Giroux, J., and Wood, E. (2014). Sexual assault services coverage on Native American land. Journal of Forensic Nursing 10 (2), pp. 92-97. Retrieved from: http://journals.lww.com/forensicnursing/ Fulltext/2014/04000/Sexual_Assault_Services_Coverage_on_Native.6.aspx.

Pierce, A. and Koepplinger, S. (2011). New language, old problem: Sex trafficking of American Indian women and children. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved from: http://www.vawnet.org.

Sweet, V. (2015). Trafficking in Native Communities. Published on 5/24/2015 by Indian Country Today Media Network. Retrieved from: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/05/24/trafficking-native-communities160475.

Van De Rijt, A., Song, H. G., Shor, E., & Burroway, R. (2018). Racial and gender differences in missing children’s recovery chances. PLoS one, 13(12), e0207742.