[POPLAR, Montana, May 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Life on the remote Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northern Montana has all the ingredients for sex trafficking – poverty, isolation, joblessness and violence, topped with an epidemic of crystal meth addiction.
Drug users are selling their babies, daughters and sisters for the potent stimulant that is ravaging Native American communities such as the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes living on the desolate plains of Fort Peck, say community leaders, experts and federal authorities.
“We’re in crisis mode,” said Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure. “We have mothers giving their children away for sexual favors for drugs. We have teenagers and young girls giving away sexual favors for drugs.”
No numbers record specific rates of local sex trafficking, which can often be buried in crimes of sexual assault, abuse, prostitution, abandonment or kidnapping. But it is a crime, poorly documented and fuelled by drug abuse, plaguing Indian reservations across the United States.
The rate of meth use among American Indians is the highest of any ethnicity in the country and more than twice as high as any other group, according to the National Congress of American Indians.
The number of drug cases on Indian lands nationwide rose seven-fold from 2009 to 2014, and crime rates on some reservations are five times higher than national averages, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report…..
A harrowing number of victims are trafficked by their own family members.
“Traffickers are not just scary men who drive around in Cadillacs in their leather trench coats,” said Healey.
“A trafficker can be a parent or guardian. A trafficker can be an aunt or an uncle or it can be a boyfriend or another friend.”
The often close relationships between abuser and abused present a web of problems such as forcing victims to leave home for their protection, experts said.
Victims may fear the community and authorities won’t believe them and will instead defend the trafficker, said an Indian Health Service social worker who did not want to be identified.
“Nobody wants to go after a family member,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation…..]