Walking the Tightrope with Sarah Deer
Indigenous women and girls face some of the highest rates of violence in the United States—and often fall through the cracks of the federal and tribal justice systems. We talk to tribal law and victims’ rights expert Sarah Deer about her work to change that—while pushing back against mass incarceration.Sarah Deer is a lawyer, professor, Muscogee (Creek) tribe member, MacArthur fellow, and an expert in tribal law and victim’s rights. She’s best known for her work on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act in 2013, but she’s dedicated her entire career to ending violence against Native women. We talked to her just after she was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame this fall—and we had so much we wanted to know.Heads up: As you might guess, this episode talks extensively about sexual violence and child sexual abuse. Take care of yourselves when you listen.If we can center the voices of Native women, and frankly women of color generally—center them rather than marginalize us—we can start to craft solutions that are going to help everyone. I mean, I think if we can solve rape in Indian Country, we can solve rape anywhere.—Sarah Deer, tribal law and victim’s rights expert and 2019 National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee | Photo by Natalie SinisgalliWe talk about:What it’s like to operate from inside a system that was not designed to serve youHow Sarah’s work played a direct role in the 2010 Tribal Law and Order ActWhy the 2019 VAWA reauthorization is still stalled in CongressHow Sarah makes sense of the tension between fighting mass incarceration and working with the legal systemPlus: How to decide which tradeoffs to make, what we can do to work within unjust systems without becoming part of those systems, and why there’s nothing empowering about having more women running fracking companies or payday lending schemes.