The federal government awarded about $1 million to three American Indian organizations in Minnesota today, as part of a $6.7 million stimulus grant to combat violence against women.
American Indian women are twice as likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to other races, according to the Department of Justice. One in three American Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.
The Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition received $154,000 to hire new staff, develop culturally specific sexual assault training, and create public awareness and educational materials.
Nicole Matthews, executive director of the coalition, said that American Indian survivors of sexual assault face additional barriers to accessing services. Culturally-specific services can help American Indian women feel more comfortable reporting assaults and getting help, she said.
"Generally speaking, most people, when they go in to seek services, look to find someone who looks like them because then you feel more comfortable," Matthews said. "You know that that person has an understanding of your culture and your identity and where you come from and some of your realities. And if you don't have that, and then you're also not getting a legal response, you kind of feel like people don't really care or you kind of feel like maybe you don't have anywhere to turn."
The White Earth Reservation Council in northwest Minnesota received $707,404 to hire a domestic violence/sexual assault investigator within the White Earth Police Department, and two other staff to provide services to survivors.
Sacred Spirits, a nonprofit tribal coalition serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, received $154,000 to hire staff and develop outreach services in Moorhead and other urban areas where a high percentage of tribal members live.
Nationwide, seven tribal governments and 10 tribal coalitions received funding, including programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, and Alaska.