Courtesy of HuffPo:

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation Wednesday to make the federal government step up its response to the largely overlooked crisis of Native American women going missing, being murdered or being forced into sex trafficking.

The Not Invisible Act would help establish an overarching federal strategy for addressing the skyrocketing rates of violence targeted at indigenous people. It creates an advisory committee of local, tribal and federal leaders to brainstorm best practices for stemming violent crime and the trafficking of Native women, and then make recommendations to the Justice Department and Interior Department on how to better direct their resources.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), comes as Native women are facing an epidemic of violence. Eight-four percent of indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime, and in some tribal communities, Native women are murdered at 10 times the national average.

Native women and girls are also disproportionately likely to become victims of sex trafficking, said Cortez Masto, which is partly why so many are going missing. At least 506 indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been killed in 71 U.S. cities, including more than 330 since 2010, according to a November report by Urban Indian Health Institute.

“I know from working with my tribal communities … that human trafficking is occurring,” she told HuffPost. “We need to play catch up on this.”

“We need to play catch up on this.” Man, that is the understatement of the year.

I am aware that this is a systemic problem that affects native women all over the country, but that is especially true up here in the Last Frontier. 

There are a lot of great things in Alaska to brag about, but how we treat women is by no means one of them. 

We have had the highest number of rapes and sexual assaults per capita in the US for as long as I can remember.

And the group most often targeted in those statistics are native Alaskan women. 

There are a lot of variables which contribute to that, including substance abuse, mistrust of authority, and in the villages, isolation and limited access to education.

If this bill is going to have a real and lasting impact it is going to need to address all of that and much more.

I applaud Lisa Murkowski for co-sponsoring this bill, but I hope she realizes this is just the beginning and there is much more that needs to be done.