This 'Survival Guide' Addresses a Sexual Assault Crisis Among Native Americans

March 28th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

There's a full-blown crisis of rape and sexual assault on Native American reservations across the country. Now, native women have one more resource to help them work through sexual abuse: a graphic novel.

In "What to Do When You're Raped: An ABC Handbook for Native Girls," Lucy Bonner, a graduate student at Parsons The New School for Design, uses striking imagery and storytelling — both hallmarks of communication within native culture — to give native women the resources they need to find help, access the legal system, and find health care should they be attacked.

What to do When You're Raped

The book is blunt and up front as it needs to be, given the statistics on rape and sexual assault on reservations. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Native Americans are 2 1/2 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other races, and one in three native women reports having been raped during her lifetime. Moreover, these figures reflect only reported cases of sexual assault, a category of crime known for being criminally underreported.

The higher likelihood of sexual assault led the book's author and editors to use stark language when discussing rape of native women. "It’s not if she's raped, it’s when she's raped,'" Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Community Board and the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center, and a contributing editor of the book, told ATTN:.

What to do When You're Raped

The handbook lays out available emergency contraceptives that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, such as Plan B.

What to do When You're Raped

And it also makes clear the labyrinthine legal process that must be navigated by a victim who wants to report an assault. The process crosses local, state, tribal, and federal jurisdictions. The book provides a list of resources to help native women work through the legal procedures.

What to do When You're Raped

One big takeaway the book offers is emotional support.

"This book is a community response," Asetoyer told ATTN:. "We have to help each other out, it's woman to woman, woman to girl, girl to girl."

What to do When You're Raped

"Women are not alone in this situation," she added. "It is not their fault, and they are not to blame themselves."