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Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault in Indian Country: Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska (Case Study)

OVC and the Office on Violence Against Women collaborated to produce this four-video series, designed for criminal justice personnel, victim advocates, and allied professionals who work with victims of sexual assault in Indian Country. This case study provides information about trial techniques for and multidisciplinary responses to cases of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault.

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MISTY LAKOTA, TRIBAL INVESTIGATOR, BIA, OGLALA LAKOTA SIOUX: In Indian Country, sexual assault isn't really spoken of too much. It's an attack on an individual and their identity, and, quite honestly, their spirit.

AMANDA, SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVOR, ONEIDA TRIBE OF WISCONSIN: We were taking turns, like, slamming the bottle, you know, see how much we can drink. And I really...I blacked out. I truly blacked out. When I woke up I felt different down there. And I was thinking to myself, "what the [bleep]," you know, "what's going on?" I didn't think of the worst. I...I actually didn't know what had happened, you know. And bad stuff happened, and I never thought that it would happen to me.

MISTY LAKOTA: It's a crime to sexually assault somebody, especially when they're incapacitated or unable to consent.

AMANDA: It was already around town by the time I woke up. It was already around Winnebago. So everywhere I walked, I felt humiliated, everywhere, cause once they looked at me, it's like they knew—they knew what happened to me, you know.

ANGIE WALKER, VICTIM WITNESS COORDINATOR, WINNEBAGO TRIBAL COURT, WINNEBAGO TRIBE OF NEBRASKA: Being such a small community, it's not easy for our victims to come forward, having to share their story in front of everybody.

GORDON RAVE, PATROL OFFICER, BIA, WINNEBAGO TRIBE OF NEBRASKA: This female called and wanted to see an officer. So I go up to the house, and Amanda was sitting there, and she was crying. And I asked her what happened.

AMANDA: "I don't know." Like, that was all I can say. "I don't know. I think I got raped, you know."

GORDON RAVE: So then I asked her again, and then she said she was passed out and she was sexually assaulted.

JILL FINKEN, SPECIAL ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA: Misty called me and said, "We had a sexual assault on the reservation." The perpetrators were with Amanda all day, watching her drink. Between the seven or eight of them that were in the car, they had shared three bottles of hard liquor. And Phillips and Baker knew what Amanda had been consuming. They also knew that they got invited into her house alone. Nobody else was going.

ANGIE WALKER: There is a myth that, oh, well, kind of the thing, well, she...she deserved it, or she...she initiated it, she wanted it. By them using alcohol and doing all these things, you know, that was a planned event.

JILL FINKEN: If you are trying to prosecute these cases and you want an open-and-shut case with full memory recall, full details, no blanks in memory, you're not going to get it.

MISTY LAKOTA: Amanda talked to me about everything that she recalled up to when she could not recall, to when she woke up, and how she felt, and her body aching, and marks on her neck that weren't there the night before.

AMANDA: It was hard at first, you know, for them to come and do interviews with me, you know. I would shut down. And they're like, "No, don't shut down," you know. And that's another hard part, was feeling that way, you know, cause you're still dealing with it. And with the interviews, you know, that's all they're doing is helping you and they want to find out, you know, what happened, you know, how you felt, what you did, and all that stuff.

JILL FINKEN: Oftentimes in sexual assaults we focus on what the victim did—what choices did the victim make. And I think it's very important to look at what the perpetrator did and what he or she knew.

GORDON RAVE: And I went and got my camera, came up there, and just started taking pictures of everything. And then I started collecting evidence, and I just grabbed everything and put them in separate bags.

AMANDA: He said, "Come with me. I'm going to take you to the hospital." So...I jumped in the cop car, and I was crying.

GORDON RAVE: Then we went to the hospital, and I just waited for her.

ANGIE WALKER: I worked with her from that point on, when she came to the ER all the way till Mercy Medical. Stayed with her as she did her rape kit.

GORDON RAVE: I'd known Amanda for forever, and you still have to do your job even though you've known that person for 15 years. And you still...you still have to do what you have—you were trained to do. You just got to put everything aside and then just do your job.

JILL FINKEN: There were a couple of things that made this case a little difficult. The crime had not been reported until the following day. And a lot of people, when they looked at this case, said, "Why didn't she immediately report it?"

AMANDA: Of course you're not going to believe what happened, you know, when you think that they're your bros, you know, your friends. I was dating a female at the time. I was like, um, "I have to tell you something." And I told her, "I need your support to help me because I don't know how to feel right now."

ANGIE WALKER: Sometimes our victims don't feel comfortable, so I'll go see the victim. And I will say, "Well, I don't want to ask you any questions about what happened with the incident." And then I'll meet with the family, also, if they're there. If they don't know me, all I have to say is, "I'm...I'm Angie. I'm the Wihu." And I'll tell them my parents—"This is my mom, this is my dad," or, "This is my grandma, my grandpa,"—and that I'm here, you know, I work at the court. And then they'll say, "Oh, okay. Well, come in."

AMANDA: It was hard for me, everybody talking about it, you know, want to believe this person's story, believe this person's story. "Oh, Amanda...," you know, or, you know, stuff like that. And, you know, "Snitch," you know, "She told on them."

JILL FINKEN: These three were very good friends. Amanda was kind of considered one of the guys. And so they were good friends, and I don't think anybody wanted to rat on anybody.

ANGIE WALKER: She was very emotional, very broken, very everything, questioning, "Why? Why? Why did they do this to me, Angie? Why?"

VIVIAN THUNDERCLOUD, ADMINISTRATOR, WINNEBAGO TRIBAL COURT, WINNEBAGO TRIBE OF NEBRASKA: That's a very, you know, big step for a victim to come forward, because she has those many, you know, obstacles to face. And they're difficult.

AMANDA: Even though I was tired of talking, I was tired of facing this, you know, I just wanted to drop it all and be, like, "No, I'm done," you know. But I actually took the time out of my day to sit there and talk about it, you know. Like, I forced myself to actually get this out, you know, and, you know, forced myself to, um, you know, handle the situation when I didn't really want to.

JASON LAWRENCE, BIA CHIEF OF POLICE, RED BAND, CHIPPEWA INDIAN: Carey was unwilling to cooperate at first. But as things went on, and as we got into—further into the interview, he was able to tell me that he admitted to her being passed out. And he got on top of her, and he put his penis in her vagina. And then I knew I locked him in. So then I said, "Well, who else was there?" And that's when he told me that the other subject was involved, getting on top of Amanda, having sex with her while she was passed out, too.

JILL FINKEN: We had penetration, which is sufficient under the statute, and I didn't think we'd get any DNA. Plus it had been a while by the time she got to the hospital. But it comes back, and we have semen. They both ended up accepting plea agreements. We arrived at a deal for 3 years plus 5 years supervised release afterwards. And total of 8 years that we're going to have eyes on these two guys. And I was hopeful that it would give not only Amanda enough time to heal and give her justice but also give these two perpetrators a chance to become contributing members of...of the society again here in Winnebago.

VIVIAN THUNDERCLOUD: Jill Finken, our Special Prosecutor, was working on the reservation with our people and being able to do a lot of her paperwork, interview process, right here. You know, nobody had to leave town. Nobody had to go down to Omaha, which is, you know, an hour and a half drive away.

JILL FINKEN: Did you, uh... So we tried to reach her by phone, and she wasn't... Having an office here on the reservation, we're able to identify more cases, we're able to hear about more cases, and we're also willing to take more cases because we can develop them better.

MISTY LAKOTA: Perpetrators and victims always come back to where their homeland is. It affects future cases—it affects them telling other people to come forward and to report.

ANGIE WALKER: The people that don't come forward, they're not getting the spiritual help, the emotional help, counseling, and that can affect them in their life. Our people want to be safe. Our people want our future generations that are coming to be safe.

AMANDA: It's a crime. And I feel good the way I handled it. Even though it was kind of hard and tough, but I handled it. And I did the right thing.

Date Created: June 16, 2020