The Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of the Task Force on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence held its first public hearing today in Bismarck, N.D., convening tribal researchers, advocates and local community members to discuss domestic violence and child physical and sexual abuse in Indian Country.
The task force is comprised of a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts on American Indian studies, child health and trauma and child welfare.
“Today represents an important step in protecting American Indian and Alaska Native children,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West. “This task force has already begun addressing children’s exposure to violence in tribal communities in ways that recognize the unique government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribes, and it will continue to develop approaches that will help us protect our children.”
“The problem of American Indian and Alaska Native children’s exposure to violence is complex and widespread and can have devastating consequences for these children,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Karol V. Mason. “I’m pleased that this group of experts will help us understand the challenges before us and give us the information we need to reduce the incidence of violence and trauma among native children.”
During the hearing, experts on the trauma of sexual abuse of American Indian children discussed their experiences and recommended ways to improve the identification, assessment and treatment of children. Other topics addressed included violence in the home, healing from trauma and programs for children exposed to violence in Indian Country and urban communities.
In addition to today’s hearing, the advisory committee will convene three public hearings in early 2014 in Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, focusing on violence in homes, schools and communities in Indian country. The 13-member advisory committee is co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah. The advisory committee will draw upon research and information gathered through public hearings to draft a final report of policy recommendations that it will present to Attorney General Eric Holder by late 2014.
Attorney General Holder created the task force this year as part of his Defending Childhood initiative to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to violence as victims and witnesses. The task force is also a component of the Justice Department’s ongoing collaboration with leaders in American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve public safety.
For more information about the advisory committee and public hearings, please visit www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood.