Indian reservation

Opening of a support center for victims of sexual assault on the Menominee Indian reserve


MENOMINEE COUNTY, Wisconsin (WBAY) – It is often difficult to prosecute crimes of sexual assault when victims are silenced by fear and embarrassment.

“Sometimes they blame themselves or the victim of the abuser blames it and so the victim internalizes that,” said Courtney Carlton, sexual assault lawyer for Menominee County Social Services.

A family rights advocacy center has opened on the Menominee Indian Reservation to help survivors with the resources to move forward. It has a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), the only one around, according to the county.

Menominee County Social Services operates the center.

Victims of sexual assault previously had to drive to Green Bay or Appleton for a forensic examination. It takes about four to six hours to complete a SANE exam and victims have the option of sending the results to law enforcement.

“When you have a survivor or a victim of sexual assault or abuse, the risk of victimization is very high if they cannot get the services they need immediately,” said the executive director of social services at Menominee County, Shannon Wilber.

According to the federal government, more than half of Native American and Native Alaskan women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. A statistic which underlined the need to open this center.

“Native Americans are the largest population to be perpetuated by others who are not Native Americans, which creates a huge prosecution problem,” said Nicole McNeel, the center’s forensic nurse examiner.

Federal data has also shown that at least 90 percent of abusers are not native.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations has jurisdiction over crimes over the Indian country if it is a felony. If a non-native person commits a felony and it is a misdemeanor, the prosecution falls to the tribal court.

“Tribal justice systems do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-natives, so they often go without any kind of accountability,” McNeel said.

Officials hope this center will reduce violent crimes against Native Americans.

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