Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline Report: A Native Perspective


I had my first pelvic exam at age 13 in a juvenile detention center. It was a frightening, humiliating experience. There was no mother, auntie or other supportive female present to guide me and explain the procedure. Afterwards, as my fellow inmates and I stood naked in a line to receive uniforms, the nurse told us that the doctor had been especially disgusted by our lack of hygiene. I was a runaway and had been sleeping rough for several nights. Sexually abused as a youngster, I was acting out. Although it happened more than 40 yeas ago, the memory can still turn my skin into an uncomfortable prickly garment of shame and anger.

In my line of work, which frequently involves reporting on the challenges faced by Indian girls and women, I am often reminded of the girls I met in the detention center. Girls like 15-year-old Cassandra, who was there because she ran away from her adult husband who had custody of her. In an effort at rehabilitation, the authorities provided us with embroidery supplies to use as we sat mostly watching TV in the cement-block common room. I remember seeing deep red scratches on the backs of girls’ necks and inside their arms—they had gouged themselves with the large embroidery needles. Self -mutilation is not new; it’s an old attempt to gain some sort of authority over a predatory world. Long practiced by incarcerated girls, cutting had been largely ignored until middle class white girls recently discovered it.



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