New Legislation to End Violence Against Native Women

March 1, 2012

2012 marks a big step forward in reclaiming justice for Native American and Alaska Native women! On February 2nd, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Originally passed in 1994, VAWA has combined criminal justice, social services and community-based initiatives to enhance the prevention and response to violence against women.

This reauthorization is all the more crucial this year because VAWA now also incorporates the groundbreaking new protections for Native American and Alaska Native Women found in the SAVE Native Women Act, such as clarifying tribal civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders. These protections will help address many of the safety and justice challenges faced by Native women in the United States and documented in our 2007 Maze of Injustice report.

For the first time, VAWA would begin to restore the authority of tribal governments to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence. Why is this so important? Because without this ability, Native women survivors of domestic violence are too often denied the ability hold their perpetrators accountable. This is in violation of international law and U.S. constitutional guarantees. Without justice, Native women survivors are being unlawfully ignored.

Violence against women in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions, especially against Native American and Alaska Native women. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime, compared to the one in five of other women in the U.S.. And 85% of these rapes are committed by non-Native individuals.

The passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 was an encouraging first step in addressing the protection and response to sexual violence against Native women but much more remains to be done to end the U.S.’s shameful legacy of violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.

Reauthorizing VAWA is a vital step in the path towards restoring safety to Native women and communities. Acknowledging this endemic violence is not enough. Tell your Senators and Representative to support the reauthorization of VAWA with the Native provisions of the SAVE Native Women Act today!