WOMAN: Nobody ever asked. Nobody ever gave us that power to say no. They just did what they had to do for their pleasure.
ARLENE O’BRIEN, TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION, SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR LAW AND POLICY: For some, their healing comes first within. They want to be able to heal their spirit first, cause that what hurts the most. In my community there's no traditional word for sexual assault or rape. A word that you have no concept for but you know that—in your heart, in your body, in your spirit—you know that you've been harmed. In Indian country we do…we don't have SANE nurses. We don't have that resources there. Our women have to travel—from my village, would have to travel 2 hours if they choose to get an exam. And it's true for a lot of rural communities also. One of the challenges is to be able to speak about it first openly and honestly with someone. And I think SAFESTAR offers that; we offer women in the community who people know, and trust, and care.
CAROLINE ANTON, TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION, VICTIM ADVOCATE: I was sexually abused by five of my family members and I tell my story to a lot of tribes to start the conversation, so they asked me to be a SAFESTAR and I was like, “Yes!” One time a lady came up to me and she just started telling me her story, and so all these feelings again came up and she was having a hard time. That's how unique it is, is that they decide when to come. When they see you, know you, and have a trust for you, they’ll just come and start sharing.
SHERONDA JORDAN, FORMER FORENSIC EXAMINER COORDINATOR, SOUTHERN ARIZONA CENTER AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT: We often see patients from the Reservation and unfortunately they wouldn't always be treated with dignity and respect. We came to the realization that we could do a much better job. We collaborated with the SAFESTARS in providing services to tribal members who have opted to not have the medical forensic exam in Tuscan. But for those that choose to come to Tuscan, we have specially trained forensic nurses to provide comprehensive care as culturally appropriate as can be.
ARLENE O’BRIEN: I think if someone comes in—especially an Indian woman—comes in for an exam, tell them every little bit about why you are doing this and make that effort to be a human being, from one human being to another.
NURSE: I'm just trying to let you feel a little bit more at ease about what's going on, okay.
NURSE: I will take a swab of your neck, okay, just to see if maybe he left any traces of himself behind on you, then we will pick it up, okay? Alright.
SHERONDA JORDAN: Walking them through each step of the examination, because there hasn't always been the trust that should be there when it comes to medical care and many other issues.
ANABEL AGUAYO, CLINICAL THERAPIST, SOUTHERN ARIZONA CENTER AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT: Even the medical system has contributed to the victimization of Native American women because a lot of fear comes from that. So if the nurse is aware of that history, they might be able to ease them of that anxiety and to let them know that we truly are here to support them.
EMILY KERN, FORENSIC NURSE EXAMINER, SOUTHERN ARIZONA CENTER AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT: I had a Native American patient arrive, and at first she was very reluctant to talk, she was almost shut down. So I began speaking with her and asking her what would bring her comfort. And I mentioned some of the things that were available and the warm blanket was what she latched on to. I got her a blanket and wrapped her shoulders and she began to tell me about how her grandmother made her a blanket and that she had carried this blanket with her from the time she was a child. Having the warmth around her shoulders helped remind her of when she was safe. I thanked her for sharing that with me. I believe she understood that somebody cared and that we wanted to hear her story.
ARLENE O’BRIEN: We have to have hope. We've been here a long time, our people, and we're survivors. We can survive, we can survive.
SHERONDA JORDAN: There is no one size fits all same program, and communities should be allowed to create a program that works best for them.
Emily Kern: To me this work is important because we're seeing an individual, but this individual is part of a larger social structure, so supporting them on an individual level is supporting the entire community, and it's trying to heal not only the individual but everybody around them.