For the second consecutive year, Equay Wiigamig (Women's Shelter) of Red Lake sponsored events to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness month, this year to include a walk. Nearly 100 concerned Red Lake members and others participated in that anti-sexual violence walk on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.
In what organizers billed as the "Protect Your Spirit Stand Against Violence Walk," participants began their walk at the junction of Hwy. #89 and #1 and ended at Seven Clans Casino and Events Center. Registration and an opening prayer began at 9:30 with the walk beginning at 10 a.m.
A "Keynote Working Luncheon" was held at noon at the Events Center. Equay Wiigamig Director Darlene Lussier and Vickey Fineday tag-teamed on emcee duties. Guest speaker Comanche Fairbanks was then introduced who gave a "Male Perspective on Sexual Violence." Fairbanks punctuated his presentation with short videos.
With the theme of "Embrace Your Greatness," Fairbanks claims to be "an introvert that becomes the extreme extrovert with a dash of humor." Fairbanks used his own life story to demonstrate myths that some men hold regarding women and sexual violence, but also that men can be victims of sexual violence as well.
"I was born into a lifestyle of sexual, domestic, emotional, financial, physical, chemical, and alcohol abuse," said Fairbanks candidly. "In my younger years I was faced with living in a life filled with drunken family members who were using heavily. I had access to beer at the age of 5, and was sexually violated by our local preacher at a young age, and was forced to do sexual acts with girls in front of other family members." Then Fairbanks explained how he recovered from that drama, and cited ways others could do as well.
Sexual Assault Statistics
Next, Equay Wiigamig staff presented some stark statistics of Sexual Assault in a handout. And not all rapes are committed against young women, sexual assault happens to men, elders, and vulnerable adults. A partial list follows:
• In 8 out of 10 rape cases the victim knew the perpetrator.
• One in four girls, and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.
• In a study of female sexual abuse victims, 81 percent of the abuse was perpetrated by the victims primary caregiver, and 78% percent by family members of which 39% were sons.
• According to the U. S. Department of Justice, nearly 6 out of 10 rape/sexual assault incidents are reported by victims to have occurred in their own homes or at the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor.
• 51% of the sexual assault cases studied in the Women's Safety Project survey were committed against young women between 16 and 21 years of age.
• Rape or sexual assault was the violent crime least often reported to law enforcement. (28%) Only 16% of rapes (1 in 6) are ever reported to police. Reasons: 43% thought nothing could be done; 27% felt it was a private matter; 12% were afraid of police response; and 12% felt it wasn't important enough.
• Among developmentally disabled adults, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are the victims of sexual assault.
• Between 1/3 and 2/3 of known sexual assault victims are age 15 or younger.
• The rate of rapes and sexual assault against lesbians and gays rose 13% nationally in 1995-1996, approximately twice the 6% rate for all violent crimes.
A full statistical report is available at Equay Wiigamig as well as information and help about how to deal with this terrible problem, through a variety of programs.
At three o'clock a much needed break followed the intense presentations. A calming Healing Ceremony would now be conducted followed by a wrap-up including door prizes.
To close out the event, Spiritual Elder Larry Stillday did a "healing ceremony." Stillday first asked the Drum Young Kingbird to do a Healing Song for victims, and invited all who have been a victim…or know someone who has been…to circle the drum. Stillday then explained the rest of the ceremony. Each participant would fill a small black cloth with asemaa (tobacco), tie it and then all proceed to a "Sacred Fire" kindled behind the Events Center. Stillday suggested all walk up to the fire, say a prayer for themselves or others who may have been victims of sexual violence, then toss the black asemaa bag into the fire. The smoke would carry the prayers to the Creator.
Last on the agenda were door prizes provided by local craftspeople. Artisans included Birch Bark Frames by Robert Fineday, Birch Bark Frames and Baskets by Bob Benais, Beaded Purses by Taria White, and T-shirts by Mike Donnell.
The walk and following events were sponsored by Red Lake Equay Wiigamig (Women’s Shelter) and funded by the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs.