Celebrating Sexual Assault Awareness Month with April 20th Sisters Rising Virtual Fundraiser Program

“1 in 3 Native women report having been raped during her lifetime and 86% of the offenses are committed by non-Native men,” reads the introduction to Sisters Rising, the award-winning 2020 documentary on sexual violence in Native American communities.

Rebuilding Hope is working to illuminate the pervasive sexual violence committed against Native Women during our annual April event in honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On the evening of April 20th, 2021 from 4pm-6pm we will be hosting a virtual screening of Sisters Rising followed by a panel discussion led by experts on the subject. More information about the event and how to register and/or donate can be found here.

Sisters Rising documents the stories of multiple Native American women advocating for justice in their communities. The documentary, created by Willow O’Feral and Brad Heck, grapples with tribal sovereignty and the legal limitations of prosecuting non tribal people within Native American land.

As it stands, it is incredibly difficult to charge non-Native people who commit sexual crimes on Native land– these heinous crimes rarely see court and Native women are left without the resources or justice to cope with the trauma. Complicating the landscape further, the prosecutorial limitations set by tribal sovereignty only encourages more non-tribal perpetrators to seek tribal lands as a target-rich environment where they can commit horrific crimes against tribal members – mostly women, children and youth.

Following the screening, Rebuilding Hope will feature a panel of experts on the subject to answer questions from the audience. Joining a Rebuilding Hope representative on this panel will be Jeri Moomaw, Founder and Executive Director of Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative, Laura Bluehorse-Swift, Program Manager for the Puyallup Tribe’s Children of the River Child Advocacy Center and Carolyn DeFord, Human Trafficking Project Coordinator and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Advocate for the Puyallup Tribe’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Program.

Jeri Moomaw, of the Cree/ Shoshone Nation, and founder of the Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative is nationally recognized for work advocating for the most vulnerable and marginalized Native American victims of sexual violence. She has spent nearly two decades working to educate people on sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Jeri’s work is nationally recognized, garnering acclaim from the U.S Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Human Services. More than these accolades, Jeri’s advocacy is strengthened by her own experiences in dealing with trauma. In her empathy guided work, Jeri has been able to create tangible change in the lives of many.

Laura Bluehorse-Swift is an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and as a result of relocation policy, she was raised on the Puyallup Tribe Reservation. She has devoted over 25 years of professional experience serving the Puyallup Tribal community’s youth and families. Prior to her current role managing the Puyallup Tribe’s Children of the River Child Advocacy Center, Laura has dedicated herself to over two decades of public service. She worked for 19 years at Puyallup Tribe Children Services, served on the Washington State Child Welfare Review Team, facilitated GONA – an evidence based Native American healing curriculum specific to the Puyallup Tribal Community, developed best Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) practices contributing to the Puyallup Tribal MDT and served as a Department of Corrections Native American Chaplain.

Carolyn DeFord is a member of the Puyallup and Nisqually Tribes. She is Cowlitz with mixed French Canadian descendancy. Carolyn supports program goals to address human trafficking, MMIP, domestic violence and abuse impacting the community. As she advocates for these important issues, she is driven by her lived experiences, especially being the daughter of a long term missing person. This inspired her to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous people, prevention, and the healing power of culture. In 2016, in an effort to support families, bridge gaps in media, services, and assist with resources and advocacy, Carolyn founded Missing and Murdered Native Americans; a grassroots volunteer organization focused on supporting families, awareness, prevention and advocacy.

Rebuilding Hope’s goal in hosting this event is two-fold. We wish to call attention to Sexual Assault Awareness Month by inviting the community to attend a large-scale educational opportunity, where attendees will find information about sexual assault and abuse and its impacts on multiple diverse communities.

Our second goal is to share the resources. Our services, support and intervention are available to survivors and their loved ones in Pierce County. By attending this event, you are also choosing to make a contribution to our work and the movement to end sexual violence in our shared communities – your ticket purchase and any additional donations you wish to make towards this event will go directly to support programs at Rebuilding Hope and to Innovations HTC as a partner with us in this work.

Tickets for the April 20th Sisters Rising event are available here. Consider sharing information about this event with friends, family, and coworkers to support Rebuilding Hope, Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative, and most importantly– for a crucial learning experience in our community.

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