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Keystone XL Pipeline Could Bring Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Keystone XL Pipeline Could Bring Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Native American women in the United States are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women of any other race. This staggering and awful statistic illustrates that there is a profound epidemic of sexual violence going on in Native communities, and lest people think this is an internal issue, much of that violence is coming from white men.

Tribes across the country are struggling with the issue and attempting to work within their own communities to heal and fight sexual violence from within, while also bridging with US government organizations and other groups to promote the health, safety and welfare of indigenous women.

Such groups have their fingers on the pulse of these issues among Native Americans, and thus, their concerns about a possible unanticipated side effect of Keystone XL approval should be taken seriously. They fear that if construction on the controversial pipeline proceeds, it could endanger Native women even more, especially in South Dakota. Their worries are based on several solid and important reasons.

One is the known and ongoing history of sexual violence against Native women, and the fact that the issue has not been resolved despite considerable advocacy work. Given the fact that Native women are already extremely vulnerable, anything that would increase that vulnerability (like huge temporary pop-up cities of pipeline workers and personnel) is a cause for concern — Native women are already considered to be easy, “soft” targets for would-be rapists, and men who know they’re passing through are even less likely to believe they’ll be held accountable for their behavior.

Concerns about pop-up cities are well-merited, as spikes in sexual violence have already been documented in other regions affected by resource booms. Where large groups of men go, sexual assault tends to follow, as for example in communities invaded by men connected with the oil and gas industry. The Department of Justice fears that such settlements can become breeding grounds for rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, in addition to other forms of crime, and marginalized communities like local Indigenous people are often the target of such crimes.

Furthermore, South Dakota is considered to be a sex tourism destination by some residents of the United States, who flock to the region for several annual events. As such, it has become a magnet for sex trafficking and sexual abuse, with Native women being involved in an estimated 40% of cases; the Wild West air of the state combined with the oil and gas boom has created an atmosphere that is almost proudly and defiantly lawless. It has also, of course, fed misogyny and violence against women.

Given that, the Keystone XL pipeline could have tremendous long-term consequences for Indigenous communities already trying to address racial injustice and violence. Sexual assault and violence leave life-long legacies that impact not just victims, but their communities, especially when they occur on a widespread scale like that currently happening in Indian Country. The pipeline’s construction could lead to yet another generation of brutalized Native women in a nation with a long history of abusing its Indigenous population.

Faith Spotted Eagle, an activist organizing against the camp, told Indian Country Today Media Network that: “If a woman is brutalized by a pipeline worker, you are talking about a lifetime of impact.”

Is that price too high for cheap fuel? Many of us would say it is.

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Photo credit: Lindsey G.

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3:13AM PDT on Mar 10, 2014

Regardless of what your beliefs are on this particular issue, Keystone XL is bad, mmkay? Let's all take it down before it's too late!

6:16PM PST on Feb 11, 2014

This is a great point, and one that I hadn't even considered.

2:24PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

The stats are horrific. Should it mean that sexual assault increases because of folks working on the pipeline, that would be yet another destructive possibility of the pipeline.

8:04AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

thank you for sharing.

6:36AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

That is not at all what I am saying..not even the article they say that this area is a sex tourist destination....if true these tourists are not coming to rape anybody..they are coming for paid for sex..and that is not rape...if the woman is a prostitute by her own choosing. The article does not distinguish between consensual paid for sex and rape...and in fact meshes the two togetther...and again they are not the same.

5:32AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

Are you saying all Native American women in ND are prostitutes? Because that is the impression you made on me,

5:28AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

Just give it a chance to sink in...women do sometimes choose to be prostitutes..and if they willingly and of their own volition choose to be prostitutes one could reasonable argue they are not being raped when working at their chosen vocation.

5:16AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

Ron C.~~~~
Your views on women reflect your personality.
Glad I will never meet you.

5:02AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

This is a bit of a stretch! The pipeline may have many pros and cons but I don't see this as a substantative issue int he debate.

4:20AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

women voluntarily working as prostitutes are not being raped when they are paid for sex...nor are they raped when they wllingly have sex with a man who then refuses to pay....prostitution is a dangerous profession, primarily because it is illegal in most places forcing it underground and into back alleys where women are vulnerable to the small minority of sick violent men...many of the posts on here make out all men to be rapists which is false...and it is implied that the native women have no ability to take any kind of defensive evasive action to protect themselves from the hordes of rapists coming to seems that all the native men are gone as well leaving the women oh so vulnerable...again..working as a prostitute does not constitute rape when it is voluntary and there are other options....and there are always options in North America...just not options that pay so well for so little work.

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