Garden of Truth report chronicles histories of abuse among Native American prostitutes

The Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition released a report today aggregating the stories of Native American women from around the state involved in prostitution.

Titled "Garden of Truth," the 72-page study details horrific tales of 105 women, finding that a striking amount had been victims of childhood sexual abuse, rape, and violence.

"After you get into prostitution, you get used to it; it's like using the bathroom," one interviewee told researchers. "You don't think about it after a while, it takes all your feeling of being a woman away."

To conduct the study, researchers interviewed women for one and a half hours each, asking a wide range of questions about sexual and physical violence, homelessness, and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Interviewers also asked about use of public services, such as rape crisis centers and chemical abuse facilities.

Here are a few of the more startling findings:

  • Seventy-nine percent had been sexually abused as children by an average of four perpetrators.
  • Ninety-two percent had been raped.
  • Forty-eight percent had been used by more than 200 sex buyers. Sixteen percent had been used by at least 900 sex buyers.
  • Eighty-four percent had been physically assaulted in prostitution.
  • Seventy-two percent suffered traumatic brain injuries in prostitution
  • Ninety-eight percent were currently or previously homeless.
  • Eighty percent had used outpatient substance abuse services.
  • Ninety-two percent wanted to escape prostitution.

    The study also found that 86 percent of interviewees believe Native American women are tricked or deceived into prostitution, often by a boyfriend.

    "I wouldn't say there are pimps anymore," said one of the women. "Now they're all boyfriends."

    Researchers list several recommendations to combat the problem, including an increase in government funding for transitional and long-term housing for Native women and increased funding for women's programs.

    Sen. Al Franken has already vowed to update the Violence Against Women Act to include information specific to Native American women, according to the Star Tribune.

    A video message from Franken about the study will be played at a 2:00 press conference today at the William Mitchell College of Law Auditorium regarding the study's findings.

    Read the full study here.

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