Mitchell professor advising Department of Justice on sexual assault issues

Mitchell Professor Sarah Deer has been named chair of a U.S. Department of Justice federal advisory committee designed to develop protocol for responding to sexual assault in tribal communities.

Professor Sarah Deer

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Deer chair of the Office for Victims of Crime’s “National Coordination Committee on the American Indian/Alaska Native Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Sexual Assault Response Team (AI/AN SANE-SART) Initiative.”

The National Coordination Committee is made up of 15 people, including representatives from tribal organizations, federal agencies, a statewide Alaska organization and an international association for forensic nurses. Deer, who is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, was selected to be its chair because of her activism on behalf of Native Americans and her experience addressing sexual violence issues in tribal communities.

“I’m honored that Eric Holder asked me to chair this federal advisory committee,” said Deer. “The rates of violence in Indian country are inexcusably high. Many tribal communities don’t have access to the same kind of forensic medical exams that are standard in most cities and states throughout the Nation. We understand the problem — and I’ve been asked to be part of the solution.”

The committee held its first meeting this past December and plans to meet roughly twice a year, once in Washington, D.C. and once in a location centrally located for tribal communities.

“We will make recommendations to the Department of Justice for improving response to rape in tribal communities,” Deer said. “I hope that our recommendations will help shape policy for years to come.”