The recent disappearance of a 32-year-old mother has shed new light on the growing problem of violence against women that live near the booming oil fields of North Dakota. Over a month ago, Olivia Lone Bear went missing from Fort Berthold Reservation and has not been heard from since.
In a recent interview, lawyer Mary Kathryn Nagle, who is helping the family with the investigation, pointed out that violence against women in this particular area has been steadily increasing since the oil companies came to town.
“We have the highest rates across the United States, again, in Indian Country, of violence, but in particular in North Dakota, where the rates of oil extraction have skyrocketed since 2005 in the Bakken oil boom. As a result of that, over 100,000 men from outside the state of North Dakota have moved to the state of North Dakota to live in man camps that the oil companies have set up. And unfortunately, as Senator Heidi Heitkamp has noted, as the former U.S. Attorney for the state of North Dakota has noted, the resulting rates of violence, drug of course, and crime and burglary have skyrocketed, but also in particular, domestic violence and sexual assault, including rape and sex trafficking,” Nagle said.
“Numerous leaders both at the state and federal level have now noticed that North Dakota — some of the towns in North Dakota within the Bakken boom and some within the Fort Berthold reservation, where Olivia is from, now some have some of the highest rates of sex trafficking in the United States,” she added.
Pop-up trailer cities where tens of thousands of oil workers come to live have become known locally as “man camps.” These camps are filled with workers who have been shipped in from all over the country, and while the majority of them are just trying to take any job they can get in a tough economy, there is a very dangerous criminal element that goes unchecked in and around these camps.
According to the Boston Globe, there are over 35 corporations extracting oil and “man camps” that stretch for miles just on the Fort Berthold reservation alone. A 2013 report in the Bismark Tribune showed rates of crime increasing across the board in the state, with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem placing the blame directly on the growing oil industry and the camps that come along with it. More recent numbers show that the state’s crime rate increased by nearly 10% in 2015 and has stayed at that level, despite a slight increase of less than a percentage point in 2016.
North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon told the AP that,
Our police and prosecutors are going to have to adapt to keep pace. We have organized criminal gangs selling drugs, sex trafficking, and out-of-state flim-flam men coming in. And the cases have become more and more complicated.https://archive.fo/QCqMA
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