|The issue of crime on Indian reservations also requires us to look at the victims of those crimes, as crime is not committed within a vacuum.
Crime rates remind us that there is generally a loss involved: loss to the victim, loss to the community, and a loss to the general wellness of the tribe. If victims do not receive a response from law enforcement or the justice system, it undermines the entire population. When tribal members see a rape victim report the crime, and then sees that nothing is done, it sends the message to criminals to commit more crime; the other message is "Why report?" Lack of sufficient law enforcement officers, lack of prosecution, lack of sufficient punishment and lack of tribal detention or correctional facilities exacerbate the situation.
Victimization on reservations is well documented. The Bureau of Justice Report of 2003 states, "The findings reveal a disturbing picture of the victimization of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The rate of violent crime estimated from self reported victimizations for American Indians is well above that of other U.S. racial or ethnic groups and is more than twice the national average. This disparity in the rates of exposure to violence affecting American Indians occurs across age groups, housing locations, and by gender." It further states, "The findings reveal a disturbing picture of the victimization of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The rate of violent crime estimated from self reported victimizations for American Indians is well above that of other U.S. racial or ethnic groups and is more than twice the national average. This disparity in the rates of exposure to violence affecting American Indians occurs across age groups, housing locations, and by gender. American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race, and the criminal victimizer is more likely to have consumed alcohol preceding the offense." And, "American Indians experienced a per capita rate of violence twice that of the U.S. resident population. On average, American Indians experienced an estimated 1 violent crime for every 10 residents age 12 or older."
The Amnesty International report, Maze of Injustice: the Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA, states, "The report confirmed what Native American and Alaska Native advocates have long known: that sexual violence against women from Indian nations is at epidemic proportions and that survivors are frequently denied justice." Aside from the statistics mentioned elsewhere in response to this inquiry, there is anecdotal information from Native American women who tell of knowing that every woman on the reservation has experienced some form of assault.
In looking at this information, it is important to view violence against Native American women as a continuum of crime---crime experienced from birth through death. Babies hear the domestic violence in the home, and are assaulted or abused; children are molested, beaten, neglected and abused; teens suffer date rape or date violence; young women are raped, abused or assaulted; married women suffer all forms of domestic violence and sexual assault; and seniors face elder abuse and financial fraud.
It is also important to recognize that victims are an integral part of the criminal justice system---they are witnesses to the crime and therefore possess intimate knowledge needed by law enforcement. Their involvement in criminal cases is crucial: the work of law enforcement cannot be accomplished without them.
According to information from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement agencies is increased through positive interaction with victims of crime. When treating victims' issues as a high priority, law enforcement sees:
By addressing the needs of crime victims, law enforcement personnel and their agencies, along with other criminal justice system entities, stand to gain. Most likely they will see that their organization will become better equipped to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators. In part, this is due to increased participation by victims, and an increased willingness of tribal members to come forth with information.
Another critical factor in being mindful of the need to include victims in the law enforcement component is that providing victim services is extremely cost effective:
Finally, there are far too few victim assistance providers in Indian Country, mainly due to lack of funding. Native American victim assistance programs currently resemble the mainstream victim assistance programs of the 1970’s: little money, few staff, no resources and a huge number of victims. Due to a lack of victim service programs in Indian Country, there often is little or no response to family members of homicide victims, sexual assault victims, child abuse victims, and others (San Carlos and Ft. Apache, Rosebud, Truxton Canyon, Hopi, Colorado River Indian Agency, Laguna Pueblos and others). This in and of itself is a travesty.
I encourage you to consider victim assistance as critical to law enforcement response to crime. "The significance of law enforcement's role in responding to crime victims cannot be overemphasized. Law enforcement officers interact more often with crime victims than other professionals in the criminal justice system."
Victim Assistance Coordinator
Ms. Roi Holt began her career in victim services in Oregon during the mid-70's as a Director of the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office, Rape Victim Advocate Program, which she developed and implemented. She later expanded the RVA Program to serve victims of all crimes. Ms. Holt continued this vital work at a domestic violence shelter and with abused children. She later started two additional prosecutor-based victims' assistance programs.
In 1996, Ms. Holt became the first Grant Monitor for the Oregon Attorney General’s Office (Department of Justice, Crime Victims’ Assistance Section), monitoring both State and Federal funds, including Victims of Crime Act/VOCA funds which are used to support victims of crime.
In 2002, Ms. Holt was hired by the Crime Victims' Assistance Network (CVAN), an Oregon non-profit agency, to develop and coordinate the Oregon State Victim Assistance Academy which was funded by a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime. As Project Coordinator, Ms. Holt worked with CVAN Board Members and over 100 agency members and volunteers to successfully implement the Oregon Academy and create a comprehensive training curriculum.
Ms. Holt has recently worked as a consultant to victim service agencies, providing training and technical assistance to sworn law enforcement personnel, attorneys and other professionals. She also served as a consultant with the Office for Victims of Crime, Technical and Training Assistance Center.
For over 30 years Ms. Holt has dedicated herself to crime victims, doing everything from gathering signatures for the passage of the Oregon Crime Victims Rights Bill to speaking on victim impact panels. She has also served on various boards and committees. As a Team Member with a National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) she responded to the shootings at Thurston High School and in the aftermath of tornadoes in Arkansas.
Ms. Holt received her Bachelor’s Degree in 1987 from Marylhurst University. She currently teaches a course on crime victims at Clackamas Community College and has taught at both Western Oregon University and Marylhurst University in the past.