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Senator Lisa Murkowski today seized the opportunity of a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing to call attention to the â€œstaggeringâ€ and â€œunacceptableâ€ epidemic of domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking among Alaska Natives and American Indians nationwide â€“ and to get answers from federal officials about efforts underway to address the problems.
“The statistics on violence and assault are staggering, and whether it’s one in three or one in four, any act of violence is unacceptable,” Murkowski said, opening the hearing. “I meet with far too many Alaskans who tell me things may be worse – there is so much whispered and silenced into the shadows, which damages not just the victims, but also their families.”
Senator Murkowski’s first question was to the Department of Justice, asking an Associate Attorney General, “Young women are being hunted. You’ve got predators waiting outside homeless teen shelters, going to events like the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. What is the Department of Justice doing to target these sex traffickers?”
Associate AG Tom Perelli told the Senator that the problem was “a scourge” and that the Department of Justice wants to improve training, give local authorities more flexibility with federal grants and provide safe places in urban areas, as well as rural Alaska.
Senator Murkowski followed up by asking whether the Department of Justice would be assisted by having clarification to Mann Act violations, where it is a crime to transport people across state lines for illegal activities such as prostitution.
Moments later, Senator Murkowski asked Dr. Rose Weahkee of Indian Health Services if she could confirm a link between household violence and Alaska’s rates of youth suicide. Weakhee informed her that all research suggests that children in houses with domestic violence, sexual assault, family violence and similar risk factors are connected to youth suicide.