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High Rates of Sexual Violence, Risky Behavior Found in Urban Indian & Native Women

Jul 1, 2010

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women living in urban areas are 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. Those are among the findings from a new study from the Urban Indian Health Institute.

The report calls the high rates of sexual violence experienced by urban AI/AN women “intolerable.” It recommends that “the context in which sexual violence occurs for urban AI/AN communities must be examined closely to learn how to promote justice and address the underlying issues.”

Urban AI/AN women who had been forced to have sexual intercourse were more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have initiated sex at a young age. Lead researcher Shira Rutman told USA Today that this was “a sign of early risky behavior.”

The report, Reproductive Health of Urban American Indian and Alaska Native Women, recommends more youth-focused programming that addresses unintended pregnancy, poor birth outcomes and sexually transmitted infections, since risk factors were found to occur especially among young urban AI/AN women. Ralph Forquera, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, said the findings show the importance of having culturally appropriate health information available. “Funding is needed for these programs to assure that they are most effective in addressing the issues outlined in this report,” he said.

The Urban Indian Health Institute is a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board. The report provides a national picture of reproductive health and sexual violence for AI/AN women living in urban areas. It is the first study to examine data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth for this population. Of the 7,643 women surveyed, researchers focused the findings on the 299 urban AI/AN women and 3,173 non-Hispanic women between the ages of 15 and 44. It is available online.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund, in partnership with faculty from Sacred Circle and Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project, will release a report in July that offers a series of recommendations to improve assessment for domestic violence at clinics and hospitals serving American Indian/Alaska Natives, to ensure that domestic violence victims get the help that they need when they seek medical care.

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