According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, American Indian women are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than U.S. women of other races. In about 90% of cases, sexual violence against Native Americans is committed by an offender of a different race. Nearly a third of all American Indian victims of violence are between the ages of 18 and 24.

To increase national awareness of this disparity and raise money to support programs aimed at curbing violence in American Indian, Alaskan Native and Canadian First Nations communities, V-Day–the international movement committed to ending violence against women and girls around the world–has launched a new initiative, the Indian Country Project. Native American activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy, of the Ihanktonwan Dakota people, has been appointed director of the Project, which will also focus on building coalitions that will help strengthen tribal commitments to preventing violence against women on Indian reservations and in other Native communities.

V-Day is a non-profit organization established in 1998 as an outgrowth of author/performer Eve Ensler’s award-winning feminist play, “The Vagina Monologues.” Its mission is to assist anti-violence groups in fighting worldwide violence against women and girls, including rape, domestic abuse, incest and female genital mutilation. In addition to ongoing initiatives throughout the year, V-Day promotes an annual series of events, performances, benefits and other activities loosely tied to Valentine’s Day (February 14). The “V” in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

To coincide with the debut of the Indian Country Project, V-Day 2003 will focus specifically on the issue of violence against Native American women. Hundreds of local V-Day 2003 events will be staged around the world throughout February and March to educate the public about this problem. Event organizers will be encouraged to donate 10% of their benefit proceeds to organizations working to end violence in Native American communities.

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Blue Star Boy, who has formed a “Kitchen Cabinet” of prominent female Native American activists, will travel throughout Indian Country to educate Native American and First Nations women about V-Day as a means to fundraise for local anti-violence programs. “V-Day offers Indian Country a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the rampant problem of violence against Native women and girls and to spark sustainable, community-sponsored events,” she says.

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