As compared to the general population, teens in Indian Country are especially vulnerable to sexual assault and sexual abuse.
In fact, teens are three timesmore likely to be sexually assaulted than other demographics.
Teenaged girls comprise 51% of all reported cases of sexual violence.
One of the ways that teens fall prey to sexual abuse is through their families. Often, teens are targeted and molested by family members or friends of the family. The perpetrator might tell the victim that nobody will believe her because of her age or because of his position in the family. A teen might be hesitant to report this kind of abuse because it can have a severe, negative impact on her family, might bring shame and embarrassment to her family (i.e., “Crazy Uncle Marvin is in prison for being a pedophile,”) or might make her a target of bullying or derision at school.
Also, as compared to the general population, a teen in Indian Country is much more likely to get “date raped.” In a “date rape” situation, a perpetrator slips drugs or alcohol into the victim’s drink without her knowledge. More specifically, GHB, rohypnol, and ketamine are commonly known as the "date rape drugs." These drugs notoriously cause blurred vision, blackouts, memory loss, and physical incapacitation. After the victim is suffering from the effects of drugs and alcohol, the perpetrator takes advantage of them. Furthermore, “date rape” drugs leave the victim’s system very, very quickly. Thus, unless the victim reports to the hospital almost immediately, it can be difficult to prove that the perpetrator gave the victim drugs.
In the vast majority of cases, almost 90%, the perpetrator is a friend or classmate of the victim.
It is important to remember that “date rape” is sexual assault, even if the victim is dating the perpetrator or has had consensual sexual contact with him in the past. To be okay, each instance of sexual contact must be accompanied by consent.
“Date rape” can be very traumatic for teens. Since the victim likely already knows the perpetrator, the victim first has to deal with the violation of trust involved in this evil act. Also, the victim may face peer pressure to not get the perpetrator into “trouble.” When the perpetrators of these crimes are high-school aged, they can get expelled from school and put into jail for their behaviors. Although these are clear consequences for bad behavior, many of the victim’s peers wrongfully place the crux of blame on the victim, blaming the victim’s report of the perpetrator’s behavior for the perpetrator’s adverse consequences.
Teens are also likely to become victims of sexual abuse through child pornography. Often, pedophiles will force teens to pose for inappropriate videos and pictures against their will. Also, many teens will take pictures of themselves with their cell phone, laptop, or camera, and send them to their boyfriends or girlfriends. When the couple breaks up, the scorned party sends out the picture to all of the victim’s peers in order to embarrass her. Regardless of the situation, victimization through child pornography is very traumatic for teens. If a victim is a victim of child pornography, she is re-assaulted, re-victimized, re-embarrassed, and reinjured every time a new person looks at the pornography.
Overall, teens face many adverse consequences to sexual assault. A teen that is sexually assaulted is more likely to engage in risky behavior, more likely to drop out of high school, more likely to be suicidal, and more likely to suffer from teen pregnancy than her peers are. As if this is not enough, 54% of women who are raped after the age of 18 were sexually abused before they turned 18. Thus, a teenaged victim is much more likely than the general population to be a victim of sexual violence again in the future.
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*NICCSA is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.