(SEATTLE, WA) —High rates of sexual violence, unintended and teen pregnancies, and risky first sexual encounters are seen in a study of urban American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women. The study conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board provides a national picture of reproductive health and sexual violence for AI/AN women living in urban areas. This study is the first to examine data from the National Survey of Family Growth for this population. Findings show American Indian and Alaska Native women living in urban areas were more likely than non-Hispanic whites to report: non-voluntary first sexual intercourse, unintended and teen pregnancies, unprotected first sex and first sex with older partners. Rates of female sterilization and use of Depo-Provera were also greater among AI/AN compared to non-Hispanic whites.
“The reproductive health risks seen among urban Indian women in this report and especially the youth bring up the history of reproductive rights abuses experienced by Native women in this country” said Ralph Forquera, Director of the Institute.
“National Women’s Health Week, set for May 9 – 15, provides an opportunity to focus attention on the programs serving American Indian women in urban areas and to reinforce the importance of having health information and services that are culturally appropriate available,” continued Forquera. “Funding is needed for these programs to assure that they are most effective in addressing the issues outlined in this report.”
“President Barack Obama’s remarks in November 2009 at the Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C. that the high rate of rape and sexual violence against AI/AN women ‘is an assault on our national conscience that we can no longer ignore,’ applies to urban Indian women as well” said Forquera.
Amnesty International’s 2007 report, Maze of Injustice: The Failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA revealed the high rates of sexual violence experienced by Indigenous women on reservations and rural areas. “The findings on sexual violence presented in this report reinforce the fact that Indian women living in urban areas are similarly at risk,” Forquera continued.
“This report makes key connections between violence and health. Violence against Native women is a public health crisis, and the urban experience has not received the same degree of attention as that of reservations and rural tribal communities,” said Sarah Deer, contributing author to Amnesty International’s 2007 Maze of Injustice report.
To access the report, Reproductive Health of Urban American Indian and Alaska Native Women, visit http://www.uihi.org/publications/reports/.