KU professor, legal scholar to give lecture on tribal law pertaining to sexual violence

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University of Kansas distinguished professor and legal scholar Sarah Deer is set to give a public lecture about her work with tribal law to strengthen outcomes for survivors of sexual violence.

In her inaugural distinguished professor lecture at KU, Deer will speak on the topic, “What If Survivors Wrote the Laws? An Exploration of Tribal Statutes on Sexual Violence.”

“My research shows that tribal criminal laws tend to be unaffected by rape law reform efforts in the 1990s,” Deer, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, said in a KU news release. “Because Native people suffer the highest rates of sexual assault in the United States, my research is intended to support the reform of tribal statutes to ensure that tribal prosecutors have the tools needed to prosecute sexual assault.”

Throughout her scholarship, Deer analyzes the intersection of federal Indian law and victims’ rights, while using Indigenous feminist principles as anchors. Her 2015 book, “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America,” ties together 25 years of her advocacy work with survivors. 

During her lecture, Deer will share findings from her soon-to-be-published work in which she comprehensively reviewed tribal nations’ sexual assault statutes. She also suggests sexual assault can better be addressed in tribal courts by utilizing Indigenous feminist legal theories about consent and sexual autonomy.

In addition to her professorship in KU’s departments of Indigenous Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, as well the KU School of Law, Deer is a lawyer. She has co-written four textbooks on tribal law, and her work has been published in several law journals. Deer was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2014 and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019. 

She’s earned national recognition for her work to oppose violence against Native women, including awards from the American Bar Association and the Department of Justice. She also testified before Congress on four occasions and was appointed to chair a federal advisory committee on sexual violence in Indian country. 

Deer’s lecture is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 4 in the Malott Room at the Kansas Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd. on KU’s campus.

The event is free to attend, but registration is required via an online form at this link. A recording of the lecture will later be posted to the KU Office of Faculty Affairs website, facultyaffairs.ku.edu.

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Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact the CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator: Students can make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255. It’s free, confidential and voluntary to talk with the CARE Coordinator. All genders welcome. Read more here.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link. Specific information about sexual assault exams can be found here.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance. (Note: CARE Sisters provide peer support and education, but this is not a 24/7 service like others listed here.)
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
More resources
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) for 24/7 safe, confidential and anonymous domestic and sexual violence support for Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is culturally appropriate.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.

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