Battered Indian Tribal Women Caught in Legal Limbo

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) the problem could be solved, unless legislators in the House remove the provisions that would protect Native woman and give control to native police.

Under the Senate bill, tribal police would gain control over all persons committing domestic violence and dating violence on tribal lands, while clarifying tribal civil jurisdiction over non-Indians.

"It would solve a lot of the problems to have local control as the outside does, it will send the same message that you can't get away with it," Boyer said.

The House bill, which passed Wednesday , and was put forth by House Republicans, removes local, tribal enforcements against domestic violence but allows battered Native woman to file a suit in U.S. district court for protection against their abusers, providing them with legal recourse.

Gays and lesbians would not be explicitly protected under the House bill either. The House Republican alternative to the Senate-passed VAWA even removes a provision that sets new reporting standards for domestic violence on college and university campuses. That measure was so non-controversial on the Senate side that it wasn't even discussed there.

Democrats spoke on the House floor Wednesday against the Republican VAWA bill and in support of the bi-partisan Senate bill. "Isn't that our value, to protect every individual?" asked House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. "'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all individuals are endowed by their creator.' Shouldn't we protect all individuals? Not exclude some?"

When asked about the House bill, Boyer said, "it puts native people on reservations on a second priority; that they are not people and therefore they would rather protect the nontribal members committing those crimes than punish them to the same extent than if the crimes were done in their home, to their people."

"This is an extremely dangerous bill" that victims' rights advocates "shouldn't go anywhere near," Lisalyn Jacobs of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women told Roll Call.

As for the 45-year-old southern-Indian tribal member, her abuse only stopped after her husband came to her work with 9mm gun.

"His intentions I know to this day were to shoot and kill me," she said.

Luckily, her coworker pushed her out of the way of the shots. After the shooting her husband fled and was not captured for two weeks.

The DA offered him a plea deal for driving without a license—a felony, whereas domestic violence is a misdemeanor for a first-time offender.

"When I asked (the DA) 'why aren't you bringing up the past assaults' I was told it's because he was never prosecuted. The tribe never did and county never did. So this (the shooting) was his first offense."

Her now ex-husband is serving his sentence for driving with a revoked license.

Today, she begs for legislators to "be our voice so we're not silenced out because we are silenced say when the system doesn't work for us."

ABCs' Tom Shine contributed to this report.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...