Musings – 09.28.21

Violence against Women.

“Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.”

Kofi Annan

We all, in all likelihood, watched as the world was anxiously awaiting news about Gabby Petito this week.

On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, the Teton County Coroner’s Office determined that the body found in Bridger-Teton National Forest on September 19, 2021, was that of Gabrielle Venora Petito, and that the manner of her death was homicide.

This is of particular note, as Gabby Petito was a white woman, pretty, with long blonde hair. While there is absolutely nothing about that that makes THAT okay, it is important because crimes again women of color, are very different. They are investigated differently, reported VERY differently, and adjudicated differently.

In a report by the Justice Department, “Native American women are two to three times more like than women of any other race to experience violence, stalking or sexual assault. More than 4 out of 5 Indigenous women reported they had been the victim of violence ad 96 percent of them described their attacker as non-Native American.”

A loophole in the law has prevented the prosecution of non-Indigenous men for crimes against Indigenous women. This has quite recently to be reversed, but so much work needs to be done.

I write about this as it may very well be a story shockingly close to my heart.

In June 1960, I was born in a hospital in Wichita, KS, with an Indigenous mother listed as my biological mother, and my father listed as unknown. Now, Wichita, KS is the biggest “major” city in Southern Kansas, across the border from Oklahoma. I found out later, when I obtained my unamended birth certificate, that my mother was aged 26, and was a native of Oklahoma. Initailly, it was mildly amusing, as the facts completely contradicted my youthful fantasy of the high school sweethearts, the football quarterback and the head cheerleader. Well, my adult woman mother was 26 years old, MORE than old enough to be a wife and mother in 1960s Kansas/Oklahoma.

Many years later, Ancestry DNA told me that I was, indeed, a “mixed” race person, but it did introduce me to likely close family relationships with numerous women, probable half-sisters. All but one of these women was adopted, unrelated to each other (as far as any knew) but all fathered by the same man. He was apparently a truck driver, and, even then, I didn’t put the pieces together, instead just laughingly calling him “a dog.”

It wasn’t until I was visiting a friend in Minnesota, another state that has a very strong Indigenous population, when she posited, “I wonder if your mother was raped?” It was like a bolt from the blue! It explained SO much…the age of my mother (26) the four other likely half-sisters, all adopted separately, and the fact that my mother was Indigenous.

I’ve certainly been aware of violence against Indigenous women, but I never thought that it had a likely direct impact on me.

#MMIW, #MMIWG and #MMIWG2S has been increasingly proliferating the internet, both in the United States and abroad. The abbreviations stand for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; and Missing and Murdered Women, Girls and 2-Spirit People, respectively.

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