Study: Sexual assault against Native American women often overlooked

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A three-year Duluth study finds Native American women, victimized by sexual assault, tend to get lost and overlooked in the legal system.

A coalition of victim advocacy groups and public safety agencies undertook the study. They wanted to address problems related to high rates of sexual assault among Native American women. Forty-one victims took part in focus groups, and none of their cases resulted in prosecutions.

Rebecca St. George, with the group Mending the Sacred Hoop, said the women felt investigators didn't believe them.

"Pretty much all of them felt that they hadn't been believed," St. George said. "We certainly saw parallels in the police reports that we read; sort of a general 'not sure if this is what really happened.'"

The study also documented poor follow-up with sexual assault victims; and a failure to ensure the safety of victims.

Deputy Chief John Beyer said Duluth Police are tightening case assignment tracking and improving efforts to keep all assault victims better informed.

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