MICHELLE DIAZ, 20
Michelle Diaz, from Los Angeles, California struggled to apply herself to her academics amid issues at home when she was younger. With the help of advisors, teachers, and peers at her high school, she was able to take the reins and take ownership of her education and her future. Diaz challenged herself to be analytical in her writing, which helped her understand the deep-rooted issues in minor things. One of her biggest accomplishments to date is being published in 826LA’s Young Authors’ Book Project, a milestone that gave her a reinvigorating sense of purpose. Diaz later joined the Editorial Board and helped develop ideas for the book’s title and cover design and guided students in editing their drafts.
After her experience on the Editorial Board, Diaz realized that she had a passion for helping others, and it encouraged her to work even closer with 826LA, a nonprofit tutoring and writing center for youth. She was nominated by the center to present her writing at the Los Angeles Central Library. While honing her communication and public speaking skills, she realized she had the potential to go to college. During her internship with 826LA, she developed an internship program for the organization and volunteered in many college and scholarship writing workshops. She finds that working with youth helps her understand her world and she enjoys passing along tips and advice to receive academic financial support.
Diaz’s hope for the future is that her young community can become more inclusive, understanding, and diverse. She believes that nurturing the inherent interconnected nature of today’s world empowers youth everywhere to teach each other.
Diaz is a college student majoring in political science and administrative studies. She is ecstatic about her spring internship with Michelle Decker, CEO of The Community Foundation in Riverside, California.
Sexual Violence Against Native Americans: It Counts
by Michelle Diaz
Since times of colonization and dislocation, sexual violence, specifically rape, has been used as a form of oppression against Native American people. However, Native American women, in particular, have been victims to this sexual assault committed by fellow Native American men. These unfortunate crimes are the reasons as to why a rape culture has been instilled and perpetuated into society. Rape culture is essentially an attitude expressed by society toward sexual abuse victims; this culture wrongly desensitizes the severity of these acts. It establishes a misogynistic culture which trivializes the lives of Native American girls and women. Moreover, these ways of thinking dehumanize women even more so because they affect society’s tendency to blame the victim. Research and studies show that some of the primary causes to the isolation of indigenous people are the judicial system, preconceived stereotypes, and assumptions of their cultural traditions.
On the one hand, the system proves to fail Native American people because Indian tribes have their own judicial court. In other words, they do not follow the justice system that is established through the state or federal government. Therefore, they handle all of the reported crimes separately. For this reason, often times there are little to no repercussions for the violent acts committed against native women. It is crucial to note that the Indian court can only prosecute perpetrators who are Indian and on native land. Thus, if an Indian civilian is attacked by a non-native person, or outside of Indian boundaries, there is essentially nothing that can be done about the situation. This is why it is deemed easy to ignore the problems that indigenous women face in terms of sexual violence…
On the other hand, outdated traditions of the Indian culture are also a prominent cause to the marginalizing of their women and girls. When a Native American female is raped by a Native American male, society considers it as not having a great deal of importance. In Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, author and activist Andrea Smith touches on these aforementioned traditions. She makes it a point that they have a strong tie to their culture and prefer not to report such crimes, even if committed by husbands or family members. They do not want to air dirty laundry and are even looked upon negatively by their community…
Stereotypes are always the number one aspect in socio-political ideologies that pave the way for Indian American genocide. As mentioned in Conquest, Indian American bodies and people are considered filthy and cynical. As the quote illustrates, “Because Indian bodies are
‘dirty’ they are considered sexually violable and ‘rapable,’ and the rape of bodies that are considered inherently impure or dirty simply does not count” (Smith, 10). It is significantly critical to understand that colonization was also a product of sexual violence as a tactic for genocide. Native women were raped and murdered by white colonizers who simply wanted to eliminate the population and take over their land…
Women of color, Native American in particular, who experience sexual assault encounter completely different experiences than white women who experience it. This is due to lack of economic support, language barriers, and incompetent political aid. In Mapping the Margins, the writer touches on issues of minority women seeking help from domestic issues. She argues,“The physical assault is merely the most immediate manifestation of subordination they experience. Many women who seek protections are unemployed or underemployed, and a good number of them are poor” (Crenshaw, 200). There is an institutionalized racism that Native American women deal with. They do not know the culture and the traditions that Americans have. There is
a certain privilege that comes with being white and a disadvantage that comes with being of color.
Sexual violence and isolation of the Indian Americans due to dislocation is kept alive through judicial systems, stereotypes, and cultural assumptions. With these three imperative strategies, there will never be an end to killing off the Native American community. To this day, off-reservation boarding schools still exist and many of the experiences dealt with at these schools are even being perpetuated in the foster care system. Since the “founding” of the so-called United States, Native American women have endured tragedies. The sexual violence committed centuries ago is the reason why there is such a small population of Indian Americans today. Even with their small population, the white man still tries to find a way to degrade them and kill them off once and for all. The gender specific stereotypes are why Native American women will continue to be hopeless and susceptible to anything that comes their way. It is critical to remember that the assimilation of the American culture is pretty much the primary cause for the normalising of rape and sexual violence. Native American women are dislocated and sexually violated, but because they do not play a big part in the media, we do not know of these issues.
Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence
against Women of Color." Stanford Law Review 43.6 (1991): 1241. Print.
Grewal, Inderpal, and Caren Kaplan. An Introduction to Women's Studies: Gender in a
Transnational World. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2006. Print.
"Native American Women." The Important Role of Native American Women. Web. 25 Mar.
Smith, Andrea, and Winona LaDuke. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian
Genocide. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2015. Print.