September 19, 2014

Hundreds walk to stomp out sexual assault

One in three Native American women suffers sexual assault during their lifetime.
SHARMINA MANANDHAR / CHICKASAW NATION PHOTO  Karen Gaddis, left, director of Chickasaw Nation Safe and Stable Families Department, and Sandra Pickens at the third annual “Walking the Park: Stomp out Sexual Assault” awareness walk at Wintersmith Park in Ada, Okla. Saturday, April 9.ADA, Okla. - Sandra Pickens was told it was her fault.



The 44-year-old was raped in a shelter in California four years ago.

“When I went to report it, the social worker says that we women don’t need to be there because it’s (the shelter) supposed to be for men only and that we make them (the men) want to do these things to us,” Pickens said. “This was coming from a woman, a social worker.”

The response really “angered” Pickens and prompted her to work hard to become “a voice for women facing any kind of violence,” the Chickasaw said.

She made three goals – to move out of the abusive situation, to get a house and to complete her education – and sought help from the Chickasaw Nation to accomplish the goals.

“I just called one day and told the operator my story and they directed me,” she said.

With the help of Chickasaw Nation Office of Violence Prevention, she moved to Ada March 7, 2007 and later enrolled at East Central University.

Last May, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human services counseling and took a service desk coordinator position at the tribal information technology department.

“As soon as I graduated, I wanted to give back to the tribe,” she said.

Pickens said she has realized all three of her goals and is now on the “next level.”

“I have a lot of peace and I just feel like I can succeed now,” she said. “I have a lot more confidence in myself.”

Pickens is currently working on an online graduate degree at Capella University and later wants to “open a transitional facility and get a team together to be able to help women come out of their situations.”

The sexual assault and domestic violence victim was one of the 150 people at the third annual “Walking the Park: Stomp out Sexual Assault” awareness walk at Wintersmith Park in Ada, Saturday, April 9.

Hosted by the Chickasaw Nation Office of Violence Prevention, in participation with the Family Crisis Center in Ada, the ECU Campus Initiative to Reduce Crime Against Women (CIRCAW) and the Office of District Attorney, the event celebrated the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“This event demonstrates how important it is for the community to join together to take a stand against sexual assault,” said Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby. “It is imperative that we work together to help prevent this terrible blight on our community and to support those whose lives have been affected.”

National and State statistics show:

• Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.

• One in three Native American women suffers sexual assault during their lifetime.

• Sixty percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

• Oklahoma reported more than 1,000 children as victims of sexual assault in 2008.

The event also included performances by the Chickasaw Dance Troupe. Water and fruits were provided by the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services Department.

Ada resident Eric Steidley was at the event to support his wife, a sexual assault victim.

Steidley said events like these are “especially important for increasing awareness among young people.”

 

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