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Tribal land and the Violence Against Women Act: part two

In our last post we talked about the last hurdle to reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark federal law that protects women from domestic violence. Currently, the bill fails to address the needs of some Native American women who are abused by non-Indians on tribal land.

Some people are criticizing the House for failing to act, but while lawmakers delay the law’s passage they are trying to make it work for this group of women. A proposed 10-page addition to the bill would allow Native American law enforcement officials and courts to pursue and prosecute non-Native attackers who strike on tribal land.

However, opponents of this measure say it would deny defendants their constitutional rights in court and broadly expand the power of a legal system that may not be able to handle it. While they debate the issue, the Act continues to languish and women are being denied the protection they deserve.

In order for the Violence Against Women Act to be truly effective, it must provide the same safeguards to all female victims of domestic violence in the country. If the law in its current form fails to protect women on tribal land with violent partners, it is failing a group of women who need it most.

Native American women face a disproportionate risk of domestic violence, harassment and assault. They are two and a half times more likely to be raped than other groups. One in three will be assaulted and one in five will live with domestic violence. Native women need federal protections just as much as – and many would say more than – the rest of the country.

Many victims of domestic violence live in fear of retaliation from their abuser and avoid seeking help. However, there are options available. If you are being abused or threatened at home, consider speaking with a family law attorney with experience in cases of domestic violence.

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

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