Sexual Assault Prevention Project

Sexual Assault in Indian Country
Sexual assault in Indian Country has long been a quiet issue despite the growing epidemic.  It is estimated that a sexual assault occurs every 127 seconds in the United States. (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007) American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely than non-Native women to become victims of sexual assault.  (Maze of Injustice, 2007) It’s also estimated that 34.1% of Native women have been raped in their lifetime,  that’s more than 1 in 3 Native women.   This is significantly higher compared to 17.6% of all women (all races)  who have been raped in their lifetime.   (National Violence Against Women Survey, 2006) Sexual assault is also one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005) and 15 of 16 rapists never spend a day in jail. (Crime and Punishment in America, 1999)

SAPP logo final2

IHS Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI) Background
Public Law 111-8, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, provided $7,500,000 for the Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI).   For FY 2010, Congress provided an additional $2,500,000 for a total of $10,000,000 in the program.  The purpose of the initiative is to support a national effort by the IHS to address domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) within American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.  The IHS Director decided to fund a one-time, non-recurring demonstration projects intended to expand community-level access to effective Tribal domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programming.
Response Circles Sexual Assault Prevention Project
The Response Circles Sexual Assault Prevention Project, a program of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board was awarded Indian Health Service (IHS) Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI) funding in 2010.  The project was underway six months after its award and thus has been implemented for a total of twenty-three months.  The main objectives at the beginning of this project included:

  • Recruit and obtain tribal approval of four (4) NPAIHB member tribes to participate in the development of “Response Circles”.  Each tribe will receive funding towards sexual assault prevention and awareness efforts.
  • Establish a baseline of reported sexual assault for the participating tribal communities
  • Focus on community prevention and awareness efforts
  • Develop a plan to continue program after three year funding cycle

In 2011, the Response Circles Sexual Assault Prevention Project, in partnership with the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, collaborated to develop the Northwest Collaboration Against Sexual Assault in Tribal Communities Project to assist the forty-three Northwest Tribal communities in establishing a coordinated,  multi-disciplinary and victim-centered response to sexual assault.  These efforts provide training and technical assistance to develop a community-based Sexual Assault Response & Resource Circle (SARRC).  The SARRC’s purpose is to work towards a collaborative response that prioritizes the victim’s needs.  Included in this grant is specialized training for healthcare providers serving tribal communities to become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).  In May 2012, three tribes attended the first Sexual Assault Response & Resource Circle (SARRC) training.  Four to six SARRC member from each tribe participated in the training.  In September 2012, the project held the first Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training.   This training was attended by twenty-one nurses that either work in tribal clinics or in hospitals that serve tribal victims.  There will be a total of three annual SARRC and SANE trainings.  These efforts are funded by the National Institute of Justice.

  • Project Goals & Objectives for Year Three
    The project received double funding for the third and final year of the project.  During this final year, the project plans to implement additional efforts towards addressing sexual assault:

    • Develop and distribute a social media campaign to the forty-three Northwest tribes focused on sexual assault awareness and prevention.
    • Offer Tribal Sexual Assault Dynamics Trainings in at least nine Northwest tribal communities.
    • Train twenty medical professionals that serve the Northwest tribal communities to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner’s (SANE).
    • Train four to five Northwest tribes on Sexual Assault Response and Resource Circle (SARRC) development and sustainability.
    • The project will present issues around sexual assault at the NPAIHB Risky Business trainings that serve tribal members and employees from all forty-three Northwest tribes.
    • Recruit two additional tribes to participate in the Sexual Assault Prevention Project.
      • Each of the project’s participating tribes will use funding to host community awareness events and activities.
      • Each of the project’s participating tribes will use funding to implement a school-based curriculum or youth group addressing sexual assault.
      • Each of the project’s participating tribal sites will work towards completion of twenty to fifty Victim Experience Surveys.
      • Each of the projects participating tribal sites will have at least ten pre and post Community Readiness Surveys completed by tribal community members and employees.
  • Benefits and Outcomes for the Northwest Tribes
    After almost four years of implementing this project, the tribes have become more receptive to working towards efforts that address this sensitive issue.  The Northwest tribes are receiving several different training opportunities to help identify, approach, respond and prevent sexual assault in their communities.  The direct benefits of these training opportunities include:

    • Up to seventeen tribes will have the opportunity to be trained on developing and sustaining a Sexual Assault Response and Resource Circle (SARRC) for their tribal community to respond and provide resources to victims of sexual assault
    • Up to sixty healthcare providers that serve the forty-three Northwest tribes have the opportunity to be trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).  When that’s broken down it results in all forty-three tribes having the potential to have at least one trained and certified SANE in their community
    • At least nine tribes will have a Tribal Sexual Assault Dynamics Training hosted in their community for a general audience to learn more about the dynamics and prevalence of sexual assault and how it affects Native victims.


    The project’s participating sites have all gone to great lengths to hold various community events and train their staff to bring this issue forward and promote awareness.  Some events include: Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Clothesline Project, Community Awareness Dinners and Hands around the Courthouse.  Several tribal advocates have been trained to implement school-based sexual assault prevention curriculums and are holding after-school youth groups to have discussion around the issue.  A culturally-specific sexual assault awareness campaign was disseminated April 2013 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  All campaign materials will be available on the NPAIHB website as well as shipped to the tribes directly.
    The first four years of this project are just first step to overcoming walls and barriers that have been held high due to the multi-generations of hurt, shame, guilt and trauma.  It’s becoming more and more evident that tribes are wanting to break the silence and bring this hidden epidemic to light for future generations to come.

    About 9 in 10 American Indian victims of rape or sexual assault were estimated to have had assailants who were non-native. (1997 US Department of Justice)
    90% of Indian women in chemical dependency treatment are victims of rape and childhood sexual abuse. (1998 Presentation to Federal Bar Association Conference. Henry. Tribal Responses to Violence Against Women. Indian Law Section.)
    A report from the American Indian Women’s Chemical Health Project found that 3/4 of Native American women have experienced some type of sexual assault in their lives.
    Among communities of color, American Indian/Alaska Native women were most likely to report rape victimization while Asian/Pacific Islander women were least likely to report rape victimization. (US Department of Justice)
    The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board is inviting its member tribes to participate in the development of Tribal Sexual Assault Prevention Project.  The effort is funded by a three year grant program which is part of Public Law 111-8; Congress appropriated funds to support a national effort by the IHS to address domestic violence and sexual assault within American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
    We are looking for four tribes (we may accept more than four tribes, but not more than ten) that will commit to a three year funded project.  We need tribes that are supported by their Tribal Council to participate in the project.  This Project will assist the Tribes in the development of “Response Circles” that will respond effectively to issues of Sexual Assault in their communities.  They will also work with the Project Coordinator in the development of a Tool Kit that may be distributed to the Member Tribes.
    If your tribe is interested in participating in the 5 year program please contact Ryan Ann Swafford- Project Coordinator, Sexual Assault Prevention Project as soon as possible or call me at 503-416-3304.

    What do we want tribes to do?

    Obtain appropriate Tribal authorization to participate in a three year program.

    1. Establish baseline of reported sexual assault for the tribal community.
    2. Develop “Response Circles”
    3. Identify the Victim Advocate
    4. Develop plan to continue program after 4 year funding cycle

Northwest Collaboration Against Sexual Assault in Tribal Communities

The Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force is working in partnership with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board to provide culturally-relevant training in sexual assault response to the 43 tribes in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project is intended to “increase the number of no-cost education opportunities for….forensic science training to….criminal justice partners and professionals involved in treating victims of sexual assault.: The ORSATF and NPAIHB recognize that:

Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely than non-Natives to be sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault is notoriously underreported. Sexual assault in rural areas has been called a “hidden epidemic.”
The primary strategy shown to be effective in addressing sexual assault is a coordinated, multidisciplinary response.
Sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) are a key part of a multidisciplinary response. SANE programs benefit rape survivors’ psychological well-being and improve overall prosecution rates for sexual assault.
Tribal communities in the tri-state region have a total of about 77,000 members, but there are only a handful of SARTs and no certified SANEs working in tribal medical facilities.
In fact, there are only 134 SANEs in the three states, or about 1 SANE every 1,816 miles and for every 89,552 people. Most of these SANEs (105) are in Oregon.

The specific goals of this project, which is funded through September of 2014, are:

Train Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners from tribal communities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. We will accomplish this by providing three in-person, 40-hour didactic SANE trainings.
Focusing on the particular needs in tribal communities, assist trained SANEs to become certified. We will hold a total of nine Advanced SANE trainings, using a simulation mannequin to assist with learning proper examination and forensic evidence collection techniques. Additionally, we will provide ongoing technical assistance to trained SANEs to assist them in meeting the requirements for certification.
Recognizing that successful forensic examiner programs do not operate in isolation, we will further provide a total of three two-day trainings to Sexual Assault Resource and Response Circles. Using a two-part training approach, we will demonstrate for SARTs the benefits of using a multidisciplinary approach, then assist them with development and sustainability of their programs. A primary focus of these trainings will be helping SART members to understand the proper identification, collection and use of DNA and other forensic evidence. Ongoing technical assistance will be offered via quarterly web-based meetings.

All trainings and technical assistance are provided free of charge to participants, and all travel expenses will be paid. Trainings will be held at the NPAIHB offices in Portland.
Domestic Violence, Sexual Asssault &Stalking Prevention and Intervention in Rural Native American Communities
Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence – 503.230.1951 – is a feminist organization made up of programs across the state serving victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Our mission is to raise awareness about or regarding violence against all women and children and to work towards non-violence through leadership in advocacy, public policy, resource development, and social change.

DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women has put together some great resources for victims of IPV that apply to teens and adults.
The Safety Planning Guide link is particularly good.

Recognizing February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month

Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) joins the nation in recognizing February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM).
In his Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month Proclamation President Obama called on all Americans “to stand against dating violence when we see it.”
At a time when an estimated 1 in 10 teens will experience dating violence we all must take this opportunity to amplify our efforts and shine a spotlight on this important issue.

Teen dating violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim.
It can include physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal violence or abuse, financial control and stalking.
Teen dating violence has negative effects on the mental and physical health of youth, as well as on their school performance.
It can also be a predictor of intimate partner violence and sexual violence perpetration or victimization in later life.
1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who have experienced domestic violence first experienced this kind of violence when they were between 11 and 17 years old.
And, we know that if we intervene early, we can often prevent perpetration and victimization in the future.

I would like to share some concrete ways that youth and adults can participate in raising awareness about teen dating violence in your community.
By engaging youth, we can prevent the destructive cycle of abuse and promote safe, healthy relationships among young people.
I am excited to announce the release of innovative new tools created by OVW technical assistance providers.
These remarkable resources can be used throughout the month of February—and beyond.

Safety Planning Guide—a project of Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
The interactive planning guide allows youth to create a personalized safety plan for work, school, home and while out with a partner.
It also provides tips, local resources, and a pocket-sized personalized safety checklist.

teenDVmonth Toolkit—a brand new toolkit released by Break the Cycle just in time for TDVAM.
The toolkit provides adult allies with resources to engage communities, especially youth, in a discussion about healthy relationships.

What’s Real Tool Kit—The Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Center for Healthy Teen Relationships’ new toolkit has an array of resources for use year-round as well as during TDVAM.  It includes a youth-led positive social marketing campaign; posters, stickers, bookmarks, and other materials to engage both youth and adult influencers;
and reproducible materials you can use to engage youth online.

That’s Not Cool Ambassador Program—the Ambassador Program is a unique opportunity for teens to raise awareness with friends, family, and the community at large.  By completing monthly challenges, That’s Not Cool Ambassadors contribute their unique voices to this national initiative while helping to raise awareness about digital dating abuse in their schools and local communities.
All teens and tweens across the country are invited to join this Futures Without Violence initiative.

There are countless programs, organizations and dedicated individuals who are tireless in their efforts to prevent abuse in dating relationships, and I applaud all of your efforts.

OVW’s youth-serving grantees tell us that everyone can make a difference by reaching out to young people in simple ways.
As we interact with teens in our work or personal lives each of us can act on President Obama’s call to stand against teen dating violence by:

Discussing the warning signs of dating abuse (all kinds, not just physical abuse).

Creating a positive connection to the issue—talk about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships, not just abusive ones—and use statistics sparingly.

Talking about how the media portrays healthy and unhealthy relationships.
For example, many popular movies, TV shows, commercials, books, and magazines portray stalking as romantic or harmless when it is actually very dangerous.

Getting involved even if you don’t have a lot of resources—an information table, classroom discussion, or school announcement can get the conversation started.

Anyone can participate in TDVAM!  Visit—an online hub for national activities and promotion of TDVAM.
The website offers resources for youth, adults and communities that want to plan awareness-raising activities in February.

Consider one of the following activities:

Request a TDVAM proclamation from your state or local government, such as this example from Minnesota.

Register your local school for the National School Announcement.

Ask local school teachers to include a discussion about healthy relationships in their February lesson plans.

Write an op-ed in your local newspaper.

Support youth-led events and projects.

The staff at OVW and I are excited to dive into the month of February and make the increased focus on teen dating violence the new norm as we welcome 2013.
A year that we hope will mark progress and positive change in the field of domestic, sexual and teen dating violence prevention.