A disproportionate number of women working in the Anchorage sex trade are Alaska Native and pimps and sex traffickers are pursuing Native girls at events like AFN, police warned tribes and villagers today.
“There have been traffickers and pimps who specifically target Native girls because they feel that they’re versatile and they can post them (online) as Hawaiian, as Native, as Asian, as you name it,” said Jolene Goeden, a special agent for the FBI in Anchorage.
Far from home and surrounded by strangers, girls from remote villages are particularly vulnerable to sex-trade recruiters said Goeden and Sgt. Kathy Lacey, supervisor for the Anchorage police vice unit. The investigators delivered a kind of “Prostitution 101” to people from villages across the state at an annual Bureau of Indian Affairs conference, telling community leaders and health workers to be on the lookout for pimps preying on Alaska Native women and girls.
The pair gave a a similar, shorter talk in October in Bethel. For some, the stories were personal.
“We don’t think that this is happening in our in small villages. It happens. It happened to my baby sister,” said a woman from a rural hub city, who said her sister was 14 years old when she disappeared while visiting the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage about four years ago.
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Native American women experience domestic violence and sexual assault at more than double the rate of other racial groups in the United States. An Amnesty International report in 2007 estimated that Native American women are 2.5 times as likely to experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
Despite this reality, there is a dearth of services for Native American women who experience sexual assault or domestic violence, particularly culturally competent services. Similarly, there are very few services for Native American women and girls who are victims of sex trafficking.
In 2009, the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center released a report on "The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of American Indian Women and Girls in Minnesota," which is one of the best sources of information and data on sex trafficking of Native Americans.