Charon Asetoyer Testifies in Congress

U.S. House Hears Testimony on Sexual Violence Against Native American and Alaska Native Women
April 2009

(Washington, DC) – The U.S. House Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee heard testimony on Wednesday, March 25, from a leading Native American expert on sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women. The testimony came following the passage of the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which made significant progress addressing sexual violence in Indian Country, and in preparation for the drafting of the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.

Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center and Chair of the Native American and Alaska Native Advisory Council for Amnesty International USA’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, delivered testimony to the subcommittee on March 25, 2009. She spoke about the epidemic of sexual violence against Indigenous women and ways that federal funding and programs can help combat it.

The FY09 Omnibus Appropriations Act included a $235 million and $85 million increase in funding from the Fiscal Year 2008 levels for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) respectively. The explanatory statement accompanying the legislation included detailed language on sexual violence against Indigenous women and directed the BIA to partner with the IHS, community advocates, and tribal leaders to establish clear standards of practice and standardized protocols for responding to sexual assaults. The language also directed the BIA to provide training programs that develop culturally sensitive protocols, including the collection and preservation of evidence for prosecution, for officers in the field who are most often the first to respond to incidences of sexual assault.

"We are pleased that the House Appropriations Committee is setting high standards for federal agencies responsible for combating sexual violence against Indigenous women in 2009, and we fully believe that the Obama administration will deliver in meeting those expectations,” Ms. Asetoyer said.

In 2007, AIUSA published Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA, a report documenting that violence against indigenous women is at epidemic levels. Ms. Asetoyer, who was interviewed for and consulted on the report, will speak to the need for the creation of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs in all IHS hospitals as well as the importance of ongoing consultation between the BIA, IHS, and Native women on how to create and implement the mandated protocol and training for responding to cases of sexual violence against Native women.

“The House Appropriations Committee is setting an excellent example of how government officials should respond to reports of human rights violations in the United States. We look forward to continued work with both the House and Senate on addressing this particularly brutal form of violent crime against Indigenous women in the United States,” Asetoyer stated.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s own statistics indicate that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two and a half times more likely than women in the United States in general to be raped or sexually assaulted. In order to achieve justice, Native American victims of sexual violence frequently have to navigate a complex maze of federal, state, tribal and local law. In addition, the agencies responsible for responding to this violence are severely underfunded, and their services are far from adequate to ensure that required law enforcement and medical attention are supplied.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

For more information about human rights and violence against Native women, please visit