The Lakota are a Native American tribe who originally lived around the Great Lakes and are one of the seven related Sioux tribes. Lakota people speak the Sioux dialect. The Lakota Indian reservation is an area that has a high number of cases of abuse against women and girls. There have been numerous television and media reports about the abuse cases in the Lakota reservation, but we never got to know what the eventual outcomes of such cases were.
Even in the developed society, the girl child is marginalized on the basis of her gender. Women are perceived to be the weaker sex and, as such, they are subjected to a lot of brutality and mistreatment from men. This has been the case for a long time in the Lakota Indian reservation. It is important to note that those who hurt and violate women and children in this area are people well known to their victims and they remain in the reservations walking free. The number of abuse cases reported by women and young girls keep increasing and, as a result, there seems to be no shortening of the extent of violations taking place (Santella, 2007). Domestic violence seems to be the order of the day within the reservation and it has reached a point where women no longer report beatings and attacks. The Lakota population is made up of people who have not yet fully embraced the ideals of educating the girl child. As a result, most of the women in the reservation are uneducated and thus do not know their basic rights. These women are beaten and violated by their husbands in their own houses and there is little they can do about it. Therefore, a support group has been formed to assist such women. The support group is made up of other villagers who have been educated on their rights and who seek to assist the rest. There is also a shelter that is open to any woman who goes in search of a place to stay when she escapes the brutality that happened to her.
Women pass this unfortunate tradition to the younger generations telling young girls that they should appreciate the beatings and that it is alright to be abused. Therefore, it becomes really difficult to uproot the traditional way of life whilst fighting for the rights of these women. It has been really difficult to even call meetings and educate women on their human rights. Some women even have fresh injuries but refuse to talk about what had happened to them.
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Statistics have shown that out of every three Native American women, one will be subjected to rape during her lifetime. Rape cases have become more frequent among the Lakota reservation population to such an extent that there is no new reports and updated case files reporting the repeating cases of abuse. This is mainly because of the sheer magnitude of the reported cases not mentioning much more that have been kept the secret when victims chose to remain silent. A research carried out named the Lakota reservation the highest ranking neighborhood in the United States that has the biggest number of rape cases (Murdoch, 2005). Women have been made to believe that rape is justified and that men are the ones in control so they can do whatever it is that they choose to do, especially in matters relating to women. Sometimes rape escalates to include brutal beatings; in one of the cases, it led to the death of a high school student. Marquita’s naked body was discovered in an abandoned house within the reservation and her case was reported to the relevant authorities for processing. In the search for more information to assist in the investigation, it emerged that the biggest obstacle to the administration of justice was the community. Her family members reported having received threats from the community if they continued searching for the culprits. Women and girls within the Lakota reservation receive no support from their own families in case of rape.
Further research exposed some of the disturbing social attitudes and behaviors that lead to the violation of women and girls’ rights. There appears to be a cultural acceptance of impunity in the reservation and even those who are violated cannot break through. Moreover, families treat their relatives like outcasts when they are raped; thus, victims find nowhere to go for a help if their own families refuse them. For fear of being totally rejected by the community, more and more rape victims choose to keep the truth about their abuse secret. Usually, it is a victim to be blamed for the rape, not the violator, and the community protects the known violators over the years. As of today, the Indian rape victims and the sex offenders live in the same community and there is a tendency to act like nothing happened.
Some organizations set up a camp in the area surrounding the reservation and operate rescue shelters which are open to anyone willing to leave an abusive relationship. There have been a couple of women who sought the services of the shelters, but their number is still too low considering the extent of abuse. The Turtle Island Project (TIP) organizes concerts to benefit the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS) in Mission, South Dakota (Santella, 2001). As long as there are cases of abuse reported, these types of camps are there to stay in the hope that another young girl or mother will come searching for a help. These shelters fight against domestic violence, sexual assault, and, more recently, an increase in the number of teen suicides in the Sioux reservation, the home of Lakota people.
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More and more young people end up engaging in drug and substance abuse in order to escape the pain and abuse that surround them in the reservation. The youth has endured years of witnessing the battering of their mothers and sisters by older men. Youth have also grown up hearing of the cases of raped. In an effort to escape from the reality, they engage in alcohol addiction. For some time, this gives them the escape they need, but its effects start wearing off. This is the point when they switch over to the use of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin among others. Females members of the community who end up engaging in such habits also fall into the trap of also engaging in sexual activities at an early age. This is due to the influence of the company of fellow drug and substance abusers.
Such kind of child upbringing badly affects women in the reservations. They tend to believe that it is alright to be treated in a demeaning way since that is the kind of treatment they have seen in the families of their mothers, aunties, and sisters. Thus, when young women are abused, they tend to rationalize the violations and see no need in reporting the abuse. Families also know about the issues affecting their female members but urge them not to report it because they are afraid of being thrown out of the community. Women who witness abuse at an early age typically lack self-respect and have low self-esteem. They usually believe that they are worthless and that their lives belong to men. They are deprived of a possibility to make their lives better in any way or to seek for an education to empower them. These women also are likely to end up suffering and eventually die from diseases that they contracted from their husbands who go out to rape and sleep with other women at random.
Substance abuse seems to be the new trend that has caught on in the Native American community. Studies have shown that alcoholism alone affects 8 in 10 families in the reservations (Takacs, 2003). The chances of the children in such families becoming alcoholics increase fourfold for the surrounding alcohol abuse they witness in their homes. There is more than 50% of the reservations’ adult population that struggles with alcohol or other substance addiction (Takacs, 2003). More and more young women end up destroying their lives once they engage in substance abuse. Alcohol makes it difficult to assess situations and this is when intoxicated women may be taken advantage of by the men in the form of a rape. Alcohol and substance abuse among pregnant women causes a spread of diseases among unborn children and increases the cases of children born with congenital disorders. Substance abuse is never a solution to any problem. This habit can only cause a limited time block of the reality, and thus, when the effects wear off, abusers will go back in search of another fix eventually becoming lifetime addicts. Large number of death from hypothermia are considered to be alcohol-related (Anzia, 2010).
It is unfortunate that these women and girls are treated like they do not exist in the United States of America. Since the statistics are there, the relevant authorities should seek out the offenders and make them face the law for destroying the lives of young girls and women. Being the Natives of the U.S, they are all bound by the same laws that protect us all so they should be protected. No one is above the law when it comes to the protection of human rights in spite of any traditions or beliefs. Hearing of abuse statistics in the Lakota community is worrying since these are young women who could have been mentored and educated into productive members of the society.