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Native Women Want Out of Prostitution, But Have Few Options

October 31, 2011

BISMARCK, N.D. - Homelessness is a common factor among Native American women who are trafficked in prostitution, according to a new report from the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition, sheds light on the stories of such women.

The group's executive director, Nicole Matthews, says that, of the women interviewed for the project, 98 percent are or had been homeless.

"You think about things that would put you in a vulnerable position to be used in prostitution or trafficking. Homelessness is at the top of that list. We also found very high rates of past childhood sexual abuse."

The study also found that the vast majority of Native women want to escape prostitution, but believe they have no other options. Matthews says there are currently few, or no, available, programs designed especially for them.

"When you can provide services to someone that looks at that entire person. You know, the physical needs, the mental and emotional and the spiritual needs, and connect that in with their culture and their identity, that's when it has a huge impact."

The study involved interviewing more than 100 Native women in prostitution in Minnesota. Matthews says the experiences of those women are likely mirrored elsewhere.

"I think that we would see and hear very similar stories if this type of research were replicated in other tribal communities. There may be some nuances. Certainly, I think North Dakota would tell a very similar story."

Matthews also notes that most pimps and Johns who traffic and use Native American women are not Native American themselves.

She is calling for Congressional hearings to better examine the sexual trafficking of Native women.

The "Garden of Truth" report can be found at www.miwsac.org

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND