The Path to Justice on Indian Reservations

New response teams are in place to fight rape on Native American reservations.

One in three Native American women has been raped or has experienced an attempted rape — more than twice the national average — according to the Justice Department. Because the local and federal U.S. government have no jurisdiction on Indian reservations, many of these crimes are left in the hands of tribal police officers and Indian health workers who are often ill-equipped to deal with these sorts of crises. Rapes are rarely tried and convicted by local tribal prosecutors, which means that the small number of women who do report their rapes almost never see their abusers brought to justice.

Last week, the Justice Department announced that it would set up a pilot program of special response teams on reservations in order to combat these crimes. Over a period of six months, the program will launch on six Montana reservations where rates of rape are sky-high. The teams, comprised of federally appointed advisers and tribal leaders, are an effort to restore confidence in the justice system so more women feel comfortable coming forward after they've been attacked.