The Violence Against Women Act has always had as its core mission to protect and serve ALL victims of intimate partner violence and to tear down barriers that stand in the way of victim safety and access to justice. S.1925 is no different, particularly when it comes to Native women. S.1925 contains language that would remove some of the systemic barriers that prevent American Indian and Alaska Native victims from bringing their perpetrators to justice. These tribal improvements included in VAWA are also contained within S. 1763, the Stand Against Violence & Empower Native Women Act (SAVE Native Women Act) and they are essential to the safety of Native women.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Action 1: Call your Senator, especially if they are VAWA sponsors or have Indian tribes in their state who they care about. Ask them to sponsor S.1763, the SAVE Native Women Act!
Violence against Native women has reached epidemic proportions. Native women are 2.5 times more likely than other U.S. women to be battered, raped, or stalked: 34% of Native women will be raped in their lifetimes and 39% will be the victim of domestic violence. This statistical reality leaves young Native women wondering not “if” they will be raped, but “when.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has found that the current system of justice, in which tribal governments have no authority over non-Indian perpetrators committing these crimes on tribal lands, is “inadequate to stop the pattern of escalating violence against Native women.” Currently, in most cases, the federal government has exclusive responsibility to investigate and prosecute major and minor on-reservation crimes. Despite this obligation, a 2010 GAO report shows that there is no prosecution in 67% of sexual assaults in Indian country. S. 1763 and Title IX of S. 1925 will address violence at the early stages by giving victims access to justice in the local tribal court—where authorities are closest to the crime and best equipped to handle these prosecutions.
S. 1763, the SAVE Native Women Act attempts to enhance the safety of Native women by:
1) giving tribes more local control to investigate and prosecute crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders that occur in Indian country regardless of the perpetrator’s race;
2) clarifying that tribes have full civil authority to issue and enforce orders of protection against all persons on tribal lands; and
3) increasing support for Tribal Domestic and Sexual Assault Coalitions.
While VAWA (S. 1925) has 54 sponsors, S.1763 has just 13 co-sponsors. Please call your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor S.1763, the SAVE Native Women Act!
Action 2: Call or write your House representative and tell them you strongly support the tribal amendments, especially those found in S.1925.
S.1925, the VAWA Reauthorization that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 7th has achieved broad, bipartisan support, contains the same key tribal amendments as those contained in the SAVE Native Women Act. These provisions will greatly improve the safety of Native women while holding perpetrators in Indian country accountable regardless of the perpetrator’s race. These critical tribal provisions were carefully crafted in consultation and collaboration with tribal leaders and victims’ advocates. The tribal provisions have been the subject of extensive hearings by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The House of Representatives will be introducing a companion bill to S.1925 in coming weeks. Please call your Representatives today and ask them reinforce their support for VAWA and help address violence in Indian country by supporting inclusion of the tribal provisions in the House VAWA as well. Remind them that VAWA is a critical tool for Indian tribes to respond to the epidemic rates of domestic violence and sexual assault on tribal lands. If they have questions, tell them to contact Katy Jackman at the National Congress of American Indians at email@example.com.
Action 3: Take time to learn the facts about the tribal provisions of VAWA so that you can educate others on these critical provisions.
Indian issues and the specific set of laws surrounding them are very complex and can be intimidating to the untrained eye. It is important that you have accurate and up-to-date information about the tribal amendments and their effects so that you can educate others on the significance of these proposals. Take time to review briefing papers, fact sheets, and news articles about the tribal provisions of VAWA on this website. The U.S. Department of Justice has studied the crisis of violence against Native women extensively and their specific recommendations for better protecting Native women—which are included in S.1925 and S.1763—are available on the NTF website for your review as well. These documents are particularly helpful if you want a more in-depth view of the public safety situation on tribal lands and the need for improvements of the kind proposed.
Now is the time for all of us to stand together to end violence against Native women—and all girls and women, boys and men.