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Archive for the ‘Rape’ Category

ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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OK, I know I haven’t ranted in a bit, but it’s getting out of hand.

The current price of fresh green beans is averaging about $1.29, depending on where you live and what kind of market you shop in.  (Add about 20% if you live on Pine Ridge Reservation.)

I am writing about green beans because I wrote about them 3 years ago (have I been doing this that long?) and that post has more hits than any other single post I have written.  When I wrote, the price of green beans where I live was hovering around $3.49 due to bad weather in the areas where we typically grow them in this country.  To have them more than $2 over the price I recalled had been a shock.  But prices are not doing that now and still I am getting hits on that post!  People, the price of green beans (noted above) is where it should be right now.  It will go down a bit in a month or so as green beans become more plentiful in additional local areas.

You might ask why I am so annoyed about that post receiving more hits than anything else – and even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you because it’s MY soapbox.

I have written about many more important topics over the years than the price of fresh green beans.

I have written about the Third World conditions that exist in the USA on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I have written about Independence Through Music, a wonderful program for youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I’ve written about living and coping with fibromyalgia for 45 years and raising a son (now 29 years old) who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

I’ve written about crime, death, dying, family, health, housing, nature, travel, national news media, passion, depression, rape, values and laundry to name just a “few” more topics.

But what comes up most often?  The price of green beans.  I’m not sure why that cannot be checked when one does the marketing.  Is it that important to know before you get there?  Or are folks in this country getting that lazy that they have to let their fingers do their shopping before they even get to the market?  There can’t be that many kids getting the assignment to find out about the prices of produce – especially in the summer.

OK, I’ve just heaved a huge sigh.

Whatever got you to this post in the first place, I hope you’ll take the time to look up one other category before you leave.  My personal suggestion would be Pine Ridge Reservation because that way you’ll learn something really important and you’ll have a large selection of posts through which to learn it.

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I finally got to speak with my “godchild” from Pine Ridge.  This is the daughter of my Lakota friend that we started out as sponsors for 6 years ago.  I’ve written about her and her problems many times before.  For once I have good news.

In case you are not up to speed on my blog posts from the past, my husband and I first met this girl when she was 10 years old.  She will be 16 in July 2011.  In the years between, she has had many problems – some that she caused herself and some that were caused by others.  She became a chronic runaway.  She began to drink alcohol.  She was raped.  She was beaten.  She was taken away from her mother because she was uncontrollable.  She was raped a second time; she  became pregnant but miscarried as a result of the rape — this while she was in state custody hours from her home on the reservation.  She was finally placed in a treatment facility in Utah because the state of South Dakota had no facility for her.  The Utah facility is a 12 hour drive from her home.

However, the facility in Utah was the first good program she entered.  They appear to have gotten through to her and ……{drumroll for the good news} ….. she is due to be released from custody at the end of the month.  I’m sure she will be on probation of some sort.  But she will be able to go home.

We spoke to her Sunday for the first time in months.  She sounded different.  Calmer.  More reasonable.  More sensible.

She wants to go home to her mother on the reservation.  She misses her family.  Yet she is also a bit afraid to go there.  She will have to find new friends and not be able to hang out with her old friends.  Too many temptations to relapse there!  She is also afraid of the family of the young man who raped her.  They have harassed her before, because she testified against him and he went to jail.  She is afraid that will happen again.

I think she will be able to make it this time if she gets adequate support.  She had a lot of anger before and it’s difficult for me to believe that it’s suddenly all gone.

So I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I am still concerned about her future.  It’s tough to be 2000 miles away.

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I’ve been writing a lot about the reservation in general and some of the people who I speak to in my “job” capacity.  But yesterday, when I spoke with my Lakota friend on Pine Ridge, it dawned on me that I haven’t updated their lives in a while.

I called my Lakota friend yesterday to get her oldest daughter’s phone number.  My friend had 4 teen/pre-teen daughters when we first met 6 years ago.  We had been assigned as sponsors for her youngest daughter, who was 10 years old at that time.  In 6 years, an awful lot has happened to this family.  They have moved at least 8 times; they have lived with my friend’s mother-in-law, mother, aunt and alone twice briefly.  Mind you, when I say “alone,” I mean my friend, her husband, various daughters and her 2 grandsons.  In fact the reason they struggled to live in “the little blue house on the hill” for as long as they did (I’ve previously written about that house) is that they wanted to be in a home where they only had their own “drama” to cope with, not the entire extended family’s drama.

What kind of “drama” are we talking about?  The only way to make it understandable is to take it person by person.  And in the interest of clarity, I will call the daughters A, B, C, D with A being the oldest and so on.

Daughter A:  was raised by her grandmother because my friend was only 16 years old when she was born; had a baby at 17; lived with her boyfriend and the baby at her grandmother’s; had a second baby at 20 years old; the boyfriend’s family accused her of having another man’s baby because the boy did not look like her boyfriend (the baby did look like Daughter A’s father, though); had her boyfriend get drunk and start beating her while she slept with their sons in the trailer; had her boyfriend arrested for domestic abuse; had her sons become ill from the living conditions they are in; allowed the boyfriend to move back in because their sons need a father; was given poor medical care for her son at the Indian Health Services clinic then investigated by child services for her child’s poor health (which was the result of the poor care); she and her sons are presently living with her mother in her grandmother’s old trailer because grandmother now has a new Habitat for Humanity home that she lives in with her son and his children.  More to come on that trailer.

Daughter B was 14 years old when we first met the family.  She was in school and trying to help her mother.  As she grew older, she fell into “the way of the rez” more.  She dropped out of high school.  When she turned 18, she moved to Salt Lake City to live with her father’s family for a while.  She would not listen when her mother tried to stop her or when her mother told her that her father’s family was not who she imagined them to be.  We should note that her father had died the year before.  While in Salt Lake City, her cousins encouraged her to shoplift for them.  When her rez boyfriend died, she returned to live with her mother.  She moved to a friend’s house, started drinking, got new boyfriend and moved in with him.  Those Salt Lake City lessons must have stayed with her, though.  The last time she visited my friend at the old trailer, she stole a box of feminine hygiene pads.  My friend had to sheepishly ask if I could send her another box since she now had none and no money to buy more.

Daughter C was 13 when we met the family.  She started running the wilder life about 2 years after that, before her sister.  Perhaps it was because she had been raped when she was younger.  But she stopped running wild when she began to have health issues.  She had dropped out of high school but was attending Virtual High School to try to get some education.  She was starting to get her life turned around.  She began having seizures and they never did find out the cause of the seizures.  When they were living in the little blue house on the hill, they had no running water in the house.  So she went to a friend’s house to have a bath.  She had a seizure while in the tub and died at the age of 16.

Daughter D, my “godchild,” the child we were originally assigned to sponsor, was 10 at the time we met the family.  She was a typical 10 year old, although she did get into trouble in school – for fighting and such – more than the average child her age.  Within a couple of years, she began to lie a lot.  She “blossomed” early, became sexually active, was raped, began to drink, became a chronic runaway, was in constant trouble and was removed from one school after another.  At 15, she became a ward of the state and was placed in a home several hours away from her family.  She was raped at that home by a staff member.  She is now in a facility in Salt Lake City – a 12 hour drive away from family in a good car – where she will stay until she is 18.  Her father’s family in Salt Lake City does not call or visit her.

My friend has not had an easy life either.  She was very much like her daughter’s when she was young.  She was sent to boarding school until she was 18.  Her mother took away her first child, Daughter A, when she was an infant.  She ran off to Salt Lake City, drank, married and had 3 daughters.  She got sober when she was pregnant.  He husband did not.  They divorced.  She had 3 daughters and no job, so she moved back to the rez.  She has never since lived in her own home, except for the little blue house on the hill.  She met her present husband and they have tried to improve their lives.  He attends college classes.  But without an income, it’s pretty difficult to pay rent and utilities and buy food and … you know how it goes.

So they are currently living in her mother’s old trailer, since her mom has a new house.  I have been in that trailer – 5 years ago.  The front stairs up to the door were rotted through on one side.  The most important problem was the floor just inside the door – literally.  It was a good thing my husband noticed it because if I had just stepped in as I normally would have, I have fallen through the floor.  There was a hole in the floor on the inside of the threshold that went right through to the outdoors.  What a risk with children – and my friend’s mother did have some of her younger grandchildren living with her at the time.

So what about now?  How is the old trailer holding up?  Mind you, it is still a roof over my friend’s head, but it is in my mind worse than the little blue house on the hill.  The floor is caving in.  There is worry that it will give way completely.  There are many more minor repair needs.  Another major danger is the Black Mold that is in that trailer.  We are visiting our friends in early June and I will see if I can get some photos of the trailer because, as they say, seeing is believing.

They also have water issues again.  The little blue house on the hill had no running water and they had to cart water in plastic milk jugs for almost a year until they got a water storage tank from the tribe.  The trailer had running water and a bathroom/shower.  Luxury!  The important word is HAD.  They were just recently informed that the water contains LEAD.  There are 2 little boys, aged 2 and 5, living there.  We all know how dangerous lead is for children!  So they cannot use the water any longer.  They are back to carting water in milk jugs!  They were also told that the trailer was condemned – but they haven’t moved because they have nowhere else to go.

But I think they’d better start looking — again!

 

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I talked to my Lakota friends yesterday.  This is the friend whose daughter was raped and got pregnant while she was in state custody.  (If you are a new reader, in the interest of not rehashing several years of this girl’s history, I invite you to search my archives under the category “Lakota friends” to find out more about my friends.)  It seems my “goddaughter” has another move in store for her.

This 15 year old is in state custody because she was a chronic runaway and was getting into self-destructive behavior (drinking, etc).  The tribe did not have the resources and she had also run afoul of the state courts (the judge was very upset when she ran away rather than attend a court date).  She was placed in a girls’ home in Mitchell, SD, which is where the pregnancy occurred.

She is no longer in that home, having been transferred to a home in a location that is slightly closer to the reservation for the short term.  Yesterday her mom told me about the new plans.

When my friend spoke with her daughter’s Juvenile Corrections Advocate, she was told the state did not have any openings in any close facilities and therefore her daughter would probably be sent to Georgia.  Georgia?!  You mean the state near Florida?  1500 miles away?  No family, no friends, no culture that’s familiar.  My friend was understandably very upset.

When she finally calmed down, she asked why her daughter wasn’t going to the facility in Utah that she’s been trying to get someone to send her daughter to for 2 years.  The Advocate agreed to look into it and, perhaps because she has had so much trauma in state custody, it is all set to happen – in about a week.

I looked up the facility in Utah.  They have excellent credentials.  The grounds and buildings are clean and inviting.  They have an equine program – something that ought to strike a real chord with a young Lakota woman.  Also, importantly, she has extended family in the area – a grandmother on her father’s side, aunts, uncles and cousins.  There will be support available.

It is a long way from the reservation, to be sure.  She may not get to see her mom very much.  But she will be safe and perhaps will learn finally – learn self-control and ways to deal with the anger she has over 2 rapes.

My husband and I are planning a trip to the reservation in June of this year.  By that time we will know how things are going for my “goddaughter” in Utah.  When we were talking about the trip, we decided that we would take my friends to visit my “goddaughter” if she was able to have visitors at that time.  It will be a day and a half trip each way, but it will be worth it.

I called my friend this morning to ask her if that would be something she would like.  She was actually speechless – very uncommon for her.  She is very happy with the idea and very excited to get to see her daughter, her “baby”.

Having just written yesterday about sponsoring, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about the costs involved in sponsoring.  We did start out by sponsoring this girl 5 years ago, but now we are friends.  We love our friends and their children.  These plans are the actions of friends, not just sponsors.  Also, we consider this part of our vacation, so it is saved for and paid for before it happens.  This is not something that would happen in the average sponsorship situation.

If it all works out, I will certainly give everyone an update.  I’ll talk about the program more and my “goddaughter’s” adaptation to it.

I’ll tell you one thing — this appears to be a move in the right direction!!

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I haven’t posted about Pine Ridge for a bit because I wanted to give you a break from the heart wrenching stories.  Okay, that’s not true.  I needed a break from writing about them!  It is hard enough to hear them first hand.  When I write them, I relive them so I can get the pain and hurt across to you.  Sometimes it becomes too heavy and I need a break.

But I recently heard a story that I knew had to be told.

A 15 year old girl was living with her grandfather in the northern part of the reservation so that she could attend high school in Rapid City.  She wanted a good education, I assume.  While she was in Rapid City, she was raped.  Rape is enough for a 15 year old to cope with – this girl also became pregnant as a result of the rape.

The Lakota hold children as sacred, so her grandfather persuaded the girl not to get an abortion.  (This is NOT a discussion on abortion vs pro-life; PLEASE do not make any comments to that topic – they will be deleted.)  So now this young lady has an infant son.

She has moved out of the area she was living in with her grandfather and moved back to her mother’s house, which is in an area I serve.  She is attending “virtual” high school so she can care for her baby and still keep up with her education.  I hope and pray that she will be able to do both.

I will be looking for a sponsor for the young woman and her infant son.  I will probably be adding other children from her mother’s home who will also need sponsors.

I am trying to understand all that this young girl must be feeling so that I can make an appropriate match with a sponsor for her.  I have some memories of what it is like to be a teenager.  I know the statistics that 2 of 3 Native American women will suffer sexual assault in their lifetimes.  Does that mean I will have support?  Or does it mean I will be expected to accept what happened, love my son and move on?

Did I want to go to college?  Am I now looking at my hope for a better future being torn away?  Will my son grow up with the same experiences of hunger, cold, lack of things that I did?  Will he have any hope?  Will I be able to give him any hope if I don’t have any  for myself?

In urban and suburban areas, teens like this young girl might have a support group with others in the same situation.  On the rez, distances are too great to gather girls for this kind of thing on a regular basis.

I don’t think I’ve managed to scrape the surface of this young woman’s feelings.  I apologize for that.  I think there are a few things that are difficult to write about if you haven’t experienced them and perhaps this is one of them.

But I certainly will work to find this girl a good sponsor for herself and her son.

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