Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Violence against Native women by non-Indians high; U.S. senators want jurisdiction expanded

Though many areas of law enforcement in Indian Country have vastly improved, The Crime Report's Cara Tabachnick writes protecting Native American women from violence is still lacking. Comanche Nation police officer Donna O'Brien told Tabachnick "everybody seems to be on the same page when fighting the war on drugs, but nobody seems to be on the same page in fighting the war (that is being waged) on women and children." Experts agree with O'Brien, saying violence against native women "has grown to epidemic proportions."

According to a Justice Department study, two in five native women will become domestic violence victims and one in three will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. However, four out of five perpetrators is non-Indian and can't be prosecuted by tribal governments because they don't have jurisdiction over anyone outside Indian Country. In an attempt to curb this problem, U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka in October introduced the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women, or SAVE Native Women, Act in Congress. "We cannot let the next generation of young Native women grow up as their mothers have - in unbearable situations that threaten their security, stability, and even their lives," said Akaka.

The bill would extend jurisdiction of tribal authorities so non-Indians who commit crimes on native lands can be prosecuted by Native authorities, improve domestic violence programs and fund data collection to better understand and respond to sex trafficking of native women. "Essentially, it would correct a long-overlooked justice gap that has been a sore point in Indian Country for decades," writes Tabachnick. Supports of the act say it will end a cycle of violence that often results in death of the victim. The Indian Affairs Committee conducted hearings last month about the SAVE Native Women Act, but no further action is planned at this time, though communications director for the committee, Emily Deimel said the act is "a top priority for the committee." (Read more)

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