Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition to Expand National Policy Work

By Ingrid Anderson, Standing Rock Lakota Descendant, National Policy Director, MIWSAC

We each understand the enormity of sexual violence within our families and communities; many of us carry the weight of the violence our mothers and grandmothers experienced. We observe our children and contemplate their futures: How can we protect them? How can we protect ourselves?


The Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC) strives to find solutions to these questions and more with the development of a policy team within the National Tribal Sexual Assault Resource Center. This unique resource center model allows us to focus on the culturally specific needs, joys, tools, and challenges of our relatives and Tribal communities in addressing sexual violence. In conjunction with the launch of intentional national policy work, MIWSAC is enhancing our state policy work. MIWSAC is conducting surveys and listening sessions with coalition members to inform our policy priorities at every level of government. We aim to strengthen the sovereignty of our Tribal coalition members and to uplift the voices of survivors and service providers.

We strongly believe and call attention to the reality that sexual violence must not be conflated with domestic violence or intimate partner violence. Through the stories of our relatives and colleagues, we are consistently reminded that sexual violence is its own unique issue to address. Though legal options and remedies may look similar to those available to survivors of other forms of violence, the current policy and funding paradigms used to support victims and survivors of domestic violence must not be considered the panacea for all types of violence. Sexual violence against American Indian and Alaska Native people (AI/AN) must be understood in the context of both colonial and lateral violence if we are to truly work toward its prevention and eradication.

MIWSAC staff has the great privilege of hearing from many folks working directly with survivors in their local communities, and their concerns echo much of what we heard in testimony at this year’s annual Violence Against Women Government-to-Government Tribal Consultation in Tulsa August 8-10. The pervasive risk factors observed across Tribal communities, including housing insecurity, economic instability, exploitation of natural resources, insufficient funding for law enforcement, jurisdictional confusion, and disconnection from culture, perpetuate systems where violence can flourish. Sexual violence demands a honed response to each of these factors, both through policy development and community-driven response. Addressing sexual violence distinctly from other forms of violence ensures that funding remains focused on its elimination, increased access to justice, and promotion of healing through culturally informed practices. Victims and survivors deserve unfettered access to justice as they define it for themselves.

At the end of the day, we are resilient people by virtue of our existence. The elimination of sexual violence against AI/AN people will only come from a proactive, multi-pronged, and unified approach. We must not accept a model response to sexual violence that does not meet the self-defined needs of our relatives; we must listen to the needs of our relatives and lift our voices, then be bold in developing and advocating for policy that ensures our safety.