By: Chad Walters
Would you let a tragedy such as rape lead you down a path of depression and destruction? Or would you find the courage to rise up against and spread awareness of the effect it has on people? Sexual assault is ongoing epidemic that no wants to acknowledge, however, affects a large population. There are an array of stigma the coexist with sexual assault such as It’s always the victims fault or girls are the only demographic affected by sexual assault. Claims like this are construed solely from opinion and will take the work of Cierra Fields and people just like her to fix them.
19-year-old, freelance journalist and sexual assault activist Cierra Fields (b. 1999), is not an individual who is new to the conversation of sexual assault. She saw a purpose in educating the Native American youth population about teenage dating and dating violence.
“I was always passionate about teen dating violence, domestic abuse, and sexual violence toward Native women,” says Fields in a interview with Native News Today.
As one of the most passionate Native youth activists for sexual assault and sexual violence among Native women, it came as shock when Fields herself became a victim of sexual assault. While attending youth summit, she was assaulted by an 18-year old man which had a drastic effect on her. Like any other victim, she experienced her time of grief and depression. In her interview with Native News Today, she describes her story including a description of the stages she went through.
“I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex.” (Cierra Fields)
Studies show that 1 in 3 Native American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, as Fields points out in her interview. She includes that she is also apart of that statistic but she doesn’t want the to define her; she has a purpose of bringing awareness to this problem and breaking the cycle. Sexual assault, not only among the Native population but in general, tends to go unreported due to different reasons. One reason why Fields takes pride in her work is because she is a youth speaker addressing mainly other youth.
Fields, a citizen from the Cherokee Nation, has a much bigger platform out of her native area. Although she is relatively young, this does not hinder Fields in her pursuit to promote and inform people of the experiences and hardships faced be Native American women.
She took part in the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Youth Commission in Alaska where she sat on round table discussion and worked with names such Malia Villegas, head of the data institute. In addition, she also held a seat at the United States of Women Summit (seen to the right.) This prestigious event was hosted by the Obama Administration, giving women leaders in the community like Fields a chance to share their story. Given the audience and the platform Fields was able to address populations nationwide, perhaps worldwide; men and women were able to hear her story.
“…This is an issue, all people, men, women, and anyone in between needs to listen to and notice.” (Cierra Fields, NATV Interview)
Fields was 1 of 8 spotlighted change makers in her community and of that 8, she was youngest. Adding on to her experience of being a national speaker, Fields was invited to sit with the United Nations in NY to discuss Native American women and their experiences.
Fields activist expertise doesn’t stop at sexual assault. She spreads her campaign further to connect topics such as skin cancer, Native American health issues, and healthcare affordability. Fields—again stated in her interview—was born with congenital melanoma. Due to her condition, she decided to part in Cherokee Nation’s Cancer Prevention Program. Cierra uses her own stories and experiences to try and “teach” other young Natives, give them another perspective to look at and show them they are not alone.
“Cierra Fields shares her survival story with Native News Today.” YouTube, uploaded by Mvskoke Media Presents Mvskoke Vision, 4 Aug 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooTBBrQekvQ
“NATV Sits Down With Cierra Fields at The White House United State of Women Summit.” Youtube, uploaded by natvonline, 16 Jun 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfHI6YBKFDw
Schilling, Vincent. “Native American Student Cierra Fields Says She Was Removed From Class.” Indian Country Today, 3 Mar 2017, https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/native-american-student-cierra-fields-says-she-was-removed-from-class-eY9qoLYcPESNNLaidsFfOw/. Accessed 9 Sep 2018
Murphy, Jamie. “Fields urges sexual consent law amendment.”Cherokee Phoenix, 26 Nov 2014, Accessed 17 Sep 2018, https://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/8697
“2016 Class of UNITY 25 Under 25 Honorees Share Their Experiences.” UNITYInc., 17 Feb 2018. Accessed 17 Sep 2018, https://unityinc.org/2016-class-of-unity-25-under-25-honorees-share-their-experiences/