Lucchesi’s experiences with violence are not uncommon. More than 84 percent of Indigenous women have experienced violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 National Institute of Justice report. In some counties, the U.S. Department of Justice found, Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average. Indigenous men face disproportionately high rates of violence, and while data collection on transgender and two-spirit Indigenous people is often lacking, Lucchesi said they too face overwhelmingly high rates of violence.
Lucchesi added that these shocking numbers, however, are probably undercounts — of the oft-cited statistic that one in three Indigenous women have been raped, she said she has an aunt who says skeptically: “Show me the other two.”
The majority of sexual assault cases in the United States go unreported, according to an analysis by the Justice Department. Poor data collection on gender-based violence among Indigenous people, including misclassifications of homicides as suicides or accidents, paired with a difficult-to-access legal system probably make this worse for Indigenous people, women’s rights experts say. Last year, Deb Haaland, the first Native American sworn in as U.S. interior secretary, announced a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to try to tackle some of these issues.
It is a problem that a bipartisan group of lawmakers says they’re also hoping to address this month by pushing to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act for the first time in almost a decade. The updated version of the bill, led by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), would include provisions expanding tribal jurisdiction over gendered violence.