Health | Opinion

Summer Montileaux: Silence on sexual abuse in Indian Country

Summer Montileaux. Photo from Lakota Children's Enrichment

Summer Montileaux, a young member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is one of the 16 winners of a high school letter-writing competition in The New York Times. She was selected for addressing issues facing youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota:
Sexual abuse is a topic rarely discussed with children on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, even though it’s common to see girls as young as 13 being sexually active.

In my high school health class, we learned about E. coli and food poisoning, but teachers never mentioned rape, incest, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, H.I.V., birth control or condoms. What I know about those topics I learned either from my mother or from independent research.

Most reservation schools don’t teach students the difference between consensual sex and rape, and that “no” means stop. When I discuss rape with my friends, most accept it as a problem that can’t be stopped.

My community is hurting for so many reasons, and law enforcement is just one of many essential services that are underfunded. If there are no consequences for criminal behavior, then laws become difficult to enforce.

Teaching schoolchildren that there are consequences for nonconsensual sex and that they can and should stand up for themselves could make a dent in this self-destructive pattern. At the very least, it would be a step in the right direction.

Get the Story:
Summer Montileaux: Silence About Sex on a Reservation [second letter on page] (The New York Times 5/31)

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