Native American women are more than twice as likely to suffer sexual assault than any other women in the U.S., according to Amnesty International. The Department of Justice reports that one in three Native American women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime compared with one in six American women overall. That estimate is likely conservative, because it relies on women self-reporting and unfortunately, staggering levels of sexual violence go unreported.

Federal law (22 U.S.C. § 7102) defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which the act is induced by force, fraud or coercion—or if a person forced into sex acts is under the age of 18. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking in persons. The law, which has been reauthorized and modified, provides an approach that includes prevention, protection, and prosecution.

The risk factors for trafficking of Native American females include poverty, poor education, tribal relocations, large-scale adoptions, and inequality. Traffickers target women and girls who are living in vulnerable conditions due to previous abuse or during times of political upheaval. Scant law enforcement in rural areas and conflicts over jurisdiction on Indian reservations mean sex traffickers often get away with their crimes. The over-representation of Native Americans in the foster care system and an increased prevalence of Native women as victims of violent crime such as domestic abuse and rape also explain the crisis of human trafficking impacting Native American communities.

The problem may be well defined but are the solutions? Join the Federal Bar Association April 6-7 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona for the 42nd Annual Indian Law Conference. “Human Trafficking of Indigenous Peoples in the 21st Century” is a pivotal breakout session that will feature Victoria Sweet of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Elizabeth Horsman, Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York. Register today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17 to take advantage of early bird, discounted registration rates!

Indian Law Conference speakers will discuss the importance of raising awareness within communities of the signs of trafficking and of the increased risk for Native women both on and off reservations. Presenters will discuss how to train medical workers, social workers, law enforcement, street outreach workers, attorneys, and other related professionals on identification, education, and response. Improved protocols to track children in the system to identify missing foster children in a timely manner are another avenue of redress.

Attend the Indian Law Conference to learn about bills that may improve the Native programs under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and expand data gathering to better understand and respond to sex trafficking of Native women. Don’t miss the April 6-7 Indian Law Conference in Arizona—sign up now at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17.


Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.