American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities, which are often geographically isolated, are at an increased risk for alcoholism, unemployment, health problems, and high poverty levels. This cumulative exposure to emotional and psychological trauma and stress, referred to as generational trauma or historical trauma, has intensified the impact of sexual violence on tribal communities. Many reservations have few accessible services to cope with the significantly high levels of stress and crime victimization.
Department of Justice (DOJ) research has shown that AI/AN women, per capita, experience more incidents of rape and sexual violence than other racial groups within the United States, and that more than one in three AI/AN women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Although existing data do not accurately portray the extent of sexual violence against AI/AN persons (including women, children, men, and transgender persons), sexual violence in tribal communities is widespread and services are inadequate to support victims. As the federal agency responsible for felony prosecutions in AI/AN communities, it is DOJ’s responsibility to act swiftly and appropriately.
In support of the priorities set forth by the President and Attorney General, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) focused significant additional resources on building and sustaining Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Sexual Assault Response Team (SANE–SART) interventions. OVC established the AI/AN SANE–SART Initiative in 2010 to address the comprehensive needs of tribal victims of sexual violence, with the ultimate goal of institutionalizing sustainable and evidence-based practices that meet the needs of tribal communities.
OVC has funded three demonstration sites, a training and technical assistance (TTA) provider, and two federal coordinating positions—one at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and one at the Indian Health Service (IHS). It has also established a Federal Advisory Committee: National Coordination Committee on the AI/AN SANE–SART Initiative (Committee) composed of diverse professionals to ensure that the Initiative meets its goal to develop effective, culturally relevant services and programs that can serve as models for other AI/AN communities nationwide.