It’s a bru­tal cy­cle

Sex­ual vi­o­lence far higher in N.L. Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - EDITORIAL - BY JAMES MCLEOD

If you’re a woman liv­ing in New­found­land and Labrador liv­ing in an Indige­nous community, you’re far more likely to be a vic­tim of sex­ual vi­o­lence.

Ac­cord­ing to RCMP sta­tis­tics pro­vided to Saltwire by the St. John’s Sta­tus of Women Coun­cil, in 2015, there were sex­ual 99 sex­ual of­fences com­mit­ted in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in New­found­land and Labrador.

For the whole of the RCMP cov­er­age area, there were 399 sex­ual of­fences, mean­ing that 25 per cent of all sex­ual of­fences in 2015 in RCMP ju­ris­dic­tion hap­pened in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

The RCMP doesn’t ac­tu­ally keep sta­tis­tics based on eth­nic­ity, so it’s not pos­si­ble to say ex­actly what por­tion of vic­tims of vi­o­lence are Indige­nous, but the sta­tis­tics pro­vided to Saltwire specif­i­cally look at sig­nif­i­cantly Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties of Hope­dale, Nat­u­ashish, Makkovik, Happy Val­ley-goose Bay, Mary’s Har­bour, Nain, Rigo­let, Cartwright and Conne River.

When it comes to sex­ual of­fences in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, the vic­tims are 91 per cent fe­male.

Mul­ti­ple sources fa­mil­iar with the issue say that many, many more sex­ual as­saults never get re­ported, and the issue is part of a larger cy­cle of his­tor­i­cal trauma, abuse, and vi­o­lence.

A woman from coastal Labrador, who spoke to Saltwire on the con­di­tion of anonymity, talked about be­ing sex­u­ally abused as a child, and grow­ing up in a house­hold where her par­ents were in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship, and strug­gled with al­co­hol ad­dic­tion.

“I prac­ti­cally had to grow up my­self, prob­a­bly from the time I was six years old. I mean, I didn’t know what a pe­riod was, I didn’t know noth­ing. I never had my mother be­cause she was al­ways (an) al­co­holic or abused,” the woman said.

The woman de­scribed how the vi­o­lence is part of a bru­tal cy­cle, with peo­ple re­sort­ing to al­co­hol and other in­tox­i­cants to es­cape the pain, but then the al­co­hol lead­ing to more vi­o­lence.

“The al­co­hol makes them mad. That’s how the sex­ual stuff starts,” she said.

The woman de­scribed liv­ing in fear that some­body would break into her house and sex­u­ally as­sault her while she was sleep­ing — some­thing she said hap­pens, but is of­ten never re­ported to po­lice.

“A lot of the men who ac­tu­ally do that are in­tox­i­cated, and they’re more scary, and they won’t take no for an an­swer,” she said.

“I’ve had other friends go through the same thing. “

Ear­lier this year, the Globe and Mail pub­lished a land­mark se­ries of sto­ries looking at the “un­founded” rates when it comes to sex­ual as­sault in Canada. “Un­founded” is the clas­si­fi­ca­tion po­lice give to re­ports of sex­ual as­sault where they be­lieve that no sex­ual as­sault oc­curred.

Ac­cord­ing to the Globe and Mail, in St. John’s, the five-year av­er­age “un­founded” rate is 8 per cent. In. Us­ing the Globe and Mail num­bers, the av­er­age un­founded rate for Labrador Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties is 19 per cent. In She­shat­shiu, the un­founded rate is 27 per cent.

Mul­ti­ple peo­ple who spoke to Saltwire said that many of the is­sues of sex­ual vi­o­lence in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties are kept secret, in part be­cause the pop­u­la­tions are so small and iso­lated.

Amelia Reimer, cul­tural sup­port co-or­di­na­tor with the St. John’s Na­tive Friend­ship Cen­tre, said that when it comes to She­shat­shiu, many peo­ple there pri­mar­ily speak In­nu­a­mun, so some crim­i­nal com­plaints may sim­ply be lost in trans­la­tion.

“I’m glad the un­founded rates aren’t even higher,” Reimer said. “I would have ex­pected the un­founded rates to be higher, but I would say that’s be­cause fewer and fewer peo­ple are re­port­ing.”

Jenny Wright, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the St. John’s Sta­tus of Women Coun­cil, said that the num­bers re­veal a clear bias in the jus­tice sys­tem.

“I mean, clearly I think it’s a racism thing. The RCMP as our na­tional po­lice force, they know the data on the high lev­els of vi­o­lence that Indige­nous women ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

“They are not re­spond­ing ef­fec­tively to the vi­o­lence that Indige­nous women ex­pe­ri­ence; those women de­serve an an­swer from them.”

The RCMP did not pro­vide any com­ment for this story, de­spite mul­ti­ple re­quests from Saltwire.

Reimer said there are a lot of things the govern­ment could be do­ing to im­prove things, such as im­ple­ment­ing the calls to ac­tion from the Res­i­den­tial Schools Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

She also said a ded­i­cated study looking at Indige­nous vi­o­lent crime rates would be use­ful.

“In­stead of just a snap­shot of 2015, how does that com­pare to 2014? 2013?” she said.

“A re­port of more than just 2015 would be a good thing, so we ac­tu­ally know what we’re looking at.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.