Recently Released Report: 94 Percent of Native Women Surveyed in Seattle Have Been Sexually Abused

Members of the Seattle Native community at Seattle City Hall in April 2018 gathered to bring attention to violence against Native women, including murdered and missing Native women.

Published August 24, 2018

SEATTLE — A disturbing report released on Wednesday in Seattle, Washington by the Seattle Indian Health Board found that 94 percent of the Native women who participated in the survey experienced rape or were coerced into sex in their lifetime.

The report was conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), the research arm of Seattle Indian Health Board. Wednesday’s event brought together American Indian leaders and community members to discuss a path forward.

The report highlights first-of-its-kind data around behavioral health and historical trauma as it relates to sexual violence against Native women who live in urban areas. Approximately 71 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in urban areas.

The survey was conducted in 2010 with 148 Native women who, at the time, were 18 years of age or older, resided in Seattle, and self-identified as American Indian or Alaska Native.

Abigail Echo-Hawk, Chief Research Officer for Seattle Indian Health Board and UIHI Director, authored the report and stated that because of differing viewpoints from UIHI’s past leadership, the report was never shared publicly.

“It is our responsibility as an organization, and as Native people, to honor the resilient women who participated in the survey and share this information, so we can begin to figure out ways of healing for our community,” Echo-Hawk said.

More than half of the women who participated in the survey lacked permanent housing at the time of the survey, and since the survey was conducted, homelessness in Seattle has increased by a third from 9,022 people in 2010 to 12,112 in 2018, according to King County’s annual Point in Time Count reports.

During the community discussion, members from numerous tribes and representatives from various Native organizations discussed the report and began identifying steps that need to be taken around policy, research, programming, and policing to initiate change.

“This will be the first of many discussions that will take place around sexual violence in our community,” said Debora Juarez, Councilmember of Seattle City Council. “We have always known that the rates of sexual violence against Native women was high, but it’s going to take others to acknowledge it as well and to do something about it, and that needs to happen now.”

“The significance of the report lies within the strength of the women who were brave enough to tell their stories,” said Susan Balbas, Executive Director and Co-founder of Na’ah Illahee Fund.  “With attention being brought to a number of issues that stem from sexual violence, such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and the need for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, their stories have the potential to save lives.”

UIHI is seeking further funding to conduct more surveys nationwide that focus on sexual violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives.

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