April is designated as the awareness month for alcohol, sexual assault and child abuse. Our world has changed dramatically due to the (COVID-19) pandemic in ways we did not expect. Some people lost our jobs and have had to seek unemployment or other assistance to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, alcohol abuse, child abuse and sexual assault incidents have likely increased in many homes due to shelter in place and/or curfew orders.
For instance, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of our children looked forward to attending school every day during the week. Some of our children looked to their school day as a refuge from the abuse they are regularly subjected too at home. School was a place where adults were not drinking alcohol. Our students also looked forward to daily hot meals during the week while they attended school. Many of our Lakota child victims looked to school as a reprieve from the sexual assaults they are subjected to in their homes.
But the students will not return to school this spring. Classes, prom, graduation, sports events and other spring school activities have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, many of us sincerely appreciate the sack meals that continue to be prepared and distributed during the week by the local school districts. Our children all have something to eat thanks to school staff, as well as the many volunteers, who work hard to distribute the sack meals.
However, the children who live under the constant threat of a drunk relative abusing, or even sexually assaulting them, are in even more danger because they are home all the time. The COVID-19 pandemic has not halted any abuse.
Yet, I do want to mention that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe paused alcohol sales at the Rosebud Casino and Plaza when both operations were shut down. Our reservation is now dry of legal alcohol sales. I don’t ever remember our reservation being dry. There was always an outlet on my reservation which either served drinks or provided off sale beer and wine products.
I realize our reservation will never be completely dry as long as we allow the illegal alcohol bootleggers to continue to push their poison in our communities. The bootleggers make alcohol available to everyone in our communities and usually won’t card people wanting to buy a jug or a can. Bootleggers also contribute to alcohol poisoning among our people. Bootleggers sell their drinks to child abusers and rapists.
We do live in an economically oppressed area but that doesn’t mean we should take advantage of people’s addictions to alcohol to make a living. So, if you or your relatives are selling beer or other alcoholic beverages illegally you are a huge contributor to alcoholism, child abuse and sexual assault.
We could be using this time at home for self-improvement. Those of you who still drink yourselves into oblivion could be looking within to figure out why you are addicted to alcohol. Look at all the health issues you have because of your drinking. It’s time to change.
I’m not sure how to stop child abuse and sexual assault. There are many victims, adult and children alike, on Rosebud who fear their predator and will not tell a police officer about the abuse they are suffering. Many relatives look the other way when they could be reporting child abuse or sexual assault. Those of you who know about child abuse or sexual assault incidents and refuse to speak up are just as guilty as the perpetrator.
As long as we allow alcohol abuse, child abuse and sexual assault to continue in our communities we are at fault. Call 911 to report crimes.
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org