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V-Day Announces Indian Country Project to Raise Awareness and Funds Around Rampant Violence Facing Native American and First Nat

10/10/2002

Native activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy appointed director of the V-Day Indian Country Project.

Kitchen Cabinet - formed by Blue Star Boy - will consist of prominent Native activists including Tantoo Cardinal, Tillie Black Bear, Peggy Bird, Sarah Deer, and Eileen Hudon.

October 10, 2002, V-Day, the global movement to stop violence against women and girls, formally announced today the launch of its Indian Country Project and the appointment of Native American activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy as Director of the Project. V-Day has developed the Indian Country Project to prioritize raising consciousness, awareness and money around the issues facing Native American women in the United States and First Nations women in Canada at a time when violence against women and girls in Indian Country is at epidemic proportions. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of incidence (of rape or sexual assault) is 3.5 times higher than any other race in the United States. The rate* continues to rise while Indian women and girls remain invisible as an at risk population.

The project will also build coalitions to strengthen tribal commitments to end violence, beginning with the work of the newly formed 'Kitchen Cabinet, " and V-Day will bring the issues facing native women in front of the world February - March 2003 via the hundreds of V-Day 2003 benefit events that are being staged worldwide.

On the announcement, V-Day Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler stated,"V-Day Rapid City 2002 was a devastating and inspirational experience in that we witnessed first hand the disturbing amount of violence in Indian country and the fierce determination and courage of the Native and First Nations women. 3.5 times as many women are violated on Indian reservations than anywhere else in North America. It is an outrage and a shame to see this kind of violence, poverty and isolation and it is all of our responsibility to heal this terrible wound. V-Day has decided to spotlight Native women this year and we are proud to announce that Suzanne Blue Star Boy has joined us to lead the Indian Country Project."

As Director of the V-Day Indian Country Project, the Washington, DC-based Ms. Blue Star Boy will travel across Indian Country to educate Native American and First Nations women about V-Day as a means to fundraise for local anti-violence groups and programs. On her appointment, she commented, "V-Day offers Indian Country a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the rampant problem of violence against Native women and girls and to spark sustainable, community-sponsored events. V-Day's successes offer a model with strong promise for Native American and First Nations women."

In addition, V-Day itself will educate about the specific issues of violence against Native American and First Nations women as part of its upcoming, worldwide V-Day 2003 campaigns and V-Day benefits (scheduled to take place February - March 2003). A central component of this education will be the expansion of the "Afghanistan Is Everywhere" program, which when launched in 2002, focused on Afghan women with the broader intention to unite women worldwide by pointing out the similarities between the experiences of the women of Afghanistan and those of women and girls in other areas of the world. In 2002, the world witnessed the violent oppression in which Afghan Women lived. V-Day sponsored the Spotlight on Afghan Women to raise funds for Afghan Women working for change within their country. At the same time, V-Day declared, Afghanistan is Everywhere. In 2003, V-Day will launch 'Afghanistan Is Everywhere: A Spotlight On Native American and First Nations Women.' This program will bring the issues facing native women to local V-Day events around the world, asking all people to stand with Native American women in their struggle to be free of violence. The program will also encourage event organizers to contribute 10% of their benefit proceeds to support work ending violence in Native American, Native Alaskan, and First Nations communities.

Immediately upon assuming her new role, Ms. Blue Star Boy implemented a 'Kitchen Cabinet', a non-traditional advisory board for the 'V-Day Indian Country Project' comprised of Tantoo Cardinal (the Native American actress who has appeared in critically acclaimed films including "Dances With Wolves" and "Smoke Signals," among many others), Tillie Black Bear (a founding member of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Black Bear also helped form the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award); Peggy Bird (currently a private consultant working with Clan Star, Inc., the technical assistance provider for the tribal coalitions, and former Director of DNA's Native American Family Violence Prevention Project); Sarah Deer (Staff Attorney for the Tribal Law & Policy Institute in West Hollywood, California, also worked for DOJ for several years as the Director of the STOP GRANTS and VAWA money with the tribes); Eileen Hudon (currently working in Minnesota on domestic violence and sexual assault issues, Hudon was formerly the director of Songidee Biimadaziwin, a sexual assault program at the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center in Minneapolis).

About V-Day

V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a palpable energy, a fierce catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop worldwide violence against women and girls including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual slavery. V-Day provides funding to create and nurture innovative programs to stop the violence.

Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of "The Vagina Monologues" to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities.

V-Day itself stages large-scale benefits and promotes innovative gatherings and programs (The Afghan Women's Summit, The Stop Rape Contest, Indian Country Project, and more) to change social attitudes towards violence against women. In 2002, more than 800 V-Day benefit events were presented by local volunteer activists around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

The V-Day movement is growing at a rapid pace throughout the world. V-Day, a non-profit corporation, distributes funds to grassroots, national, and international organizations and programs that work to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day was named one of Worth Magazine's "100 Best Charities" in 2001. In its first five years, the V-Day movement has raised over $14 million, with over $7 million raised in 2002 alone.

The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

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* According to the "American Indians and Crime" report (US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, February 1999) for the period 1992-1996:

American Indians were the victims of rape or sexual assault at 3.5 times the rate of United States residents of other races.

About 90% of the American Indian victims of rape or sexual assault reported an offender of a different race.

Nearly a third of all American Indian victims of violence were between the ages of 18 and 24.

Some Native Americans, service providers and national researchers believe that, even though statistics reflect an alarming rate of sexual violence in Indian Country, the rate of sexual assault in particular is underrepresented, most likely due to being underreported. The history of cultural and personal oppression of Native American and First Nations women, their fear of familial reprisal and shame, and the overlapping and confusing federal, state and tribal legal jurisdictions that can hinder investigations and prosecutions, discourage Native American women victims of violence from pursuing support and justice and leaves them feeling helpless and fearful.