November 13, 2007

pretty bird woman house

I came across this today, and I had to share it. Apologies for the cut-and-paste nature of this post.

In 2004, Jackie Brown Otter founded Pretty Bird Woman House, a women's shelter at the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. The shelter is named after Brown Otter's sister, who was kidnapped, raped and beaten to death in 2001.

According to Amnesty Intn'l report,

High levels of sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation take place in a context of high rates of poverty and crime... The unemployment rate on the Reservation is 71 per cent. Crime rates on the Reservation often exceed those of its surrounding areas. According to FBI figures, in 2005 South Dakota had the fourth highest rate of "forcible rapes" of women of any US state.

As a special bonus to the Lakota Sioux Reservation, there are sufficient desensitization to crime and confusion over Tribal/Non-Tribal jurisdiction at Standing Rock to create rape tourism. Says Andrea Smith, an Assistant Professor of Native Studies at the University of Michigan,

[N]on-Native perpetrators often seek out a reservation place because they know they can inflict violence without much happening to them.

Against these odds, Pretty Bird Woman House is staffed by three people-- a nurse, a volunteer, and a part-time employee-- and from January to October of this year, they managed to:

  • answer 397 crisis calls

  • give emergency shelter to 188 women and 132 children

  • help 23 women obtain restraining orders, 10 get divorces, and 16 get medical assistance

  • provide court advocacy support for 28 women

  • conduct community education programs for 360 women

A few weeks ago, PBWH's phone lines were cut, the office was ransacked, and the building was burnt down.

Everyone was away from the house at the time, but all possessions were lost, and - because PBWH's grant from the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence is predicated on its ability to shelter women - its funding is also lost. Now everybody's trying to pick up the pieces.

Click here for the full story.

How you can help:

  1. Donate what you can for a new house.

    Pretty Bird Woman House already has two potential replacement houses in mind. Both offer significantly more space than the previous building... full basements, storage room and would house more than double the families and women than their previous building. Both buildings have yards which means possible playgrounds for children.

    One house has a major advantage in location - a police station across the street.

    Because of difficulties obtaining loans (banks are allergic to both Native Americans and poverty) the best solution lies in purchasing the house outright. The Tribal Council could hold the mortgage but coming up with the mortgage payments every month creates an ongoing problem. Since both houses are on the market, they could be gone anytime. Depressed property values on Standing Rock mean that $60,000 gets the house. An additional $10,000 is required to make them secure, with proper fencing, video cameras, reinforced doors and other measures.

    Since 10/25, the drive for donations for PBWH has garnered 17% of the $70,000 goal; the drive ends January 2008-- so consider donating in someone's name as a Christmas present. Donations can be made here.


  2. Donate material goods-- clothing, toiletries, non-perishables, etc.

    USPS to:
    Pretty Bird Woman House
    P.O. Box 596
    McLaughlin, SD 57642

    or FedEx, UPS, DHL ship to:
    Pretty Bird Woman House
    302 Sale Barn Rd.
    McLaughlin SD 57642


  3. Spread this meme.

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