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Tribal land and the Violence Against Women Act: part one

The United States Senate recently voted to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act but the law is being held up in the House. Representatives are facing public ire for failing to renew such an important law but the reason for the hold-up is also a valid one: the law currently fails to protect some Native American women who face domestic violence on tribal land.

For example, one Colorado Native woman married a white man and moved to her native reservation. Before long her husband was beating and threatening her regularly. But because he was white, the tribal police could not touch him. And because they were on native land, municipal law enforcement could not get involved either.

One time her husband even went so far as to call the county sheriff himself after beating her to prove that law enforcement could not stop him. Only federal law enforcement authorities had the power to intervene, but her efforts to contact them were fruitless.

The United States House is considering making a change to the bill that would help these women. We’ll discuss that measure next time and its importance, especially for Native American women.

If you are in a situation where you are being threatened, harassed or abused by a family member or domestic partner, it can be hard to know where to turn. Consider speaking with a family law attorney experienced in matters of domestic violence. He or she can work with you to help you get the assistance you need while pursuing any legal remedies or protections that may be appropriate.

Source: The New York Times, “Measure to Protect Women Stuck on Tribal Land Issue,” Jonathan Weisman, Feb. 10, 2013

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