On the Issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG)
Last week, the Arizona State Legislature approved recommendations to support improved systems and practices that will reduce the number of Indigenous women and girls that are missing and/or murdered every year in this state.
LeCroy & Milligan Associates (LMA), a program evaluation and research firm based in Tucson, Arizona, contributed a significant portion to this study through a contract with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AG) and in collaboration with the Legislative Committee. LeCroy & Milligan Associates was contracted by the AGs office to conduct a field study to collect perspectives directly from survivors and family members of Indigenous women and girls who had been murdered and/or gone missing. In addition, the study included interviewing and surveying federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to learn about their practices, challenges, and potential areas for improvement in solving this issue.
The study was conducted with the collaboration of Valaura Imus-Nahsonhoya of Honwungsi Consulting Services, a member of the Hopi Tribe. “The collaboration with LMA has been a great experience. LMA provided an enhanced understanding of research methodology and ensuring procedures were followed to protect the confidentiality of all participants. In return, my knowledge and experience enhanced LMA’s understanding of tradition of our Arizona Tribes and ensuring the field study was victim centered and trauma informed.”
To talk with tribal members on tribal lands, Memoranda of Understanding were sought from all 22 tribal sovereign Nations. Data collection methods and tools were reviewed by an Institutional Review Board to ensure they would maintain confidentiality and maximize protections for those participating. To best meet the needs of tribal communities, and given the difficult nature of the topics, the study was originally to be conducted through in-person interviewing in all tribal communities in Arizona. COVID-19, and the resulting quarantines and precautions, delayed and ultimately shifted the methodology to a virtual environment.
“This type of virtual shift, while unfortunate, has been a common part of our work at LMA this year. Everyone is adjusting to new ways of hearing, seeing and learning from each other. And data collection in most cases has been able to continue,” said Katie Haverly, LMA Research and Innovation Manager and MMIWG Field Study Director. “That was the case for this field study.”
Recommendations ultimately presented in the LeCroy & Milligan Associates report emphasized MMIWG specific training for law enforcement agencies including information on sex trafficking; law enforcement system changes that support timely and consistent data reporting; standard protocols for investigative responses to MMIWG cases; supporting Tribal communities with reducing stigma and improving treatment and support options for those experiencing substance abuse and/or domestic violence; increased utilization of highly trained victim advocates to work with families during these cases; and enhanced communication between law enforcement, victim and social services, prosecutors, probation, corrections, and the courts on MMIWG cases.
“We wanted to speak with so many more people, hear so many more stories, share so much more,” stated LMA CEO, Darcy McNaughton, “but,” given the unprecedented times in which the study was conducted, our work makes an important contribution and first step toward addressing this tragic issue in our state. Our team worked hard with the support of the AG’s office and Legislative Committee to do all we could to create a comprehensive report. We look forward to seeing how findings will be used to make changes statewide on this issue.”
The full report, as well as the public hearing with the Legislature, is publicly available here:
Visit www.lecroymilligan.com to learn more research services at LeCroy & Milligan Associates. LeCroy & Milligan Associates has had a 25-year commitment to providing the best information for informed decision-making to address important community, health and justice issues across Arizona and Nationwide.