Month: April, 2012

Amnesty International Condemns “Shameful” Effort to Strip New Protections for Native Women from Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Sunday, April 22, 2012
Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Friday, April 20, 2012
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150,

(Washington) – Amnesty International USA today condemned as “disturbing and shameful” the effort underway in the U.S. Senate to strip protections for Native American and Alaska Native women from legislation to help fight domestic violence and sexual assault.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA, said: “It’s quite disturbing to think that some senators want to eliminate protections for Native women. Surely the Senate will reject this idea that only some women deserve protection from violence.  It’s shameful. All women must be protected. Lives are at stake.”

Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)  is crucial especially this year, Amnesty International contends, because it incorporates key new protections for Native women found in the SAVE Native Women Act, such as clarifying tribal civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders.  Amnesty International has long supported the VAWA.

Amnesty International’s groundbreaking 2007 “Maze of Injustice” report found enormous challenges when it comes to safety and justice for Native women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.  The protections in the SAVE Native Women Act help address these obstacles to protecting women and prosecuting abusers .

“This Act is crucial to reverse the legacy of violence against Native women, which is at epidemic levels today,” said Nossel.   

Native American and Alaska Native women in the United States face domestic and sexual violence at drastically higher levels than other women. The “Maze of Injustice” report revealed that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped during their lives and 2 in 5 women in Native communities will suffer domestic violence. Even more shocking, four out of five perpetrators are non-Indian, and currently cannot be prosecuted by tribal governments. The new provisions in VAWA will change that situation.

“These statistics are evidence of a broken system where survivors find themselves in a maze of protocols and convoluted jurisdictions that often deny justice to survivors,” said Sarah Deer, a Native women’s advocate and member of Amnesty USA’s Native American and Alaska Native Advisory Council.  “The SAVE Native Women Act brings hope that we can change the situation to protect women.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

For more information, visit
Twitter: @amnesty

U.S. Senator Worries Tribal Courts Will Imprison ‘Any American’

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
By Rob Capriccioso April 16, 2012
WASHINGTON – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is expressing concern that tribal courts operating on Indian reservations will attempt to arrest and imprison ‘any American’ if legislation aimed at protecting Native women from criminal violence passes the U.S. Congress. Hutchison made her view known in an April 5 op/ed published by The Des Moines Register.
“One of the problematic provisions of the committee bill would give tribal courts authority to arrest, try and imprison any American,” Hutchison wrote in referring to S.1925, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), currently being considered in the U.S. Senate.

In short, Hutchison appears to be making it seem as if innocent Americans will wrongly suffer in tribal courts under the legislation. But what the senator doesn’t note is that the ‘any American’ she is referring to would have to commit serious crimes against Indians in order to be prosecuted in tribal court—and even then, would have protections under the proposed legislation.

Many non-Indian Americans are currently able to commit crimes on Indian reservations without facing any consequences, according to federal research. U.S. Attorneys decline to prosecute 67 percent of sexual abuse and related matters that occur in Indian country, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in 2010, because they say their resources are already stretched too thin.

Tribal courts have historically been able to pick up the slack in some cases, but a 2008 U.S. District Court decision out of Washington state found that an Indian tribe didn’t have the authority to enter a protection order for a non-member Indian against a non-Indian residing on non-Indian fee land within the reservation—effectively blocking the tribal wheels of justice from working in many cases.

The VAWA reauthorization attempts to make up for these shortfalls. Section 904 would restore concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence or violations of protection orders in Indian country. And, in response to the 2008 U.S. District Court decision, Section 905 goes on to clarify that every tribe has full civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders against all persons regarding matters on tribal lands.

At the same time, Sections 904 and 905 of the proposal under congressional consideration are the ones that worry Hutchison: “This provision is probably unconstitutional; it is certainly impractical,” she writes in her editorial.

But tribal advocates say Hutchison is wrong, as well as trying to scare Americans, and failing to take steps to reduce violence against Indians.

“Sen. Hutchison and other opponents of the tribal criminal jurisdictional amendments in S.1925 seem to be doing their best not only to undermine the credibility of tribal courts, but also to mischaracterize the tribal provisions in the media to make them appear much, much broader than they are as currently drafted,” says Katy Jackman, staff lawyer for the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network.

Jackman points out that Section 904 does not permit tribal prosecutions unless the defendant has “sufficient ties to the Indian tribe”—the tribe must prove that any defendant being prosecuted under Section 904 either: resides in the Indian country of the prosecuting tribe, is employed in the Indian country of the prosecuting tribe, or is either the spouse or intimate partner of a member of the prosecuting tribe.

“The idea that somehow this new jurisdiction would expand to ‘any American’ is patently absurd,” Jackman says. “Apparently, Sen. Hutchison thinks that non-Indians who live, work, and/or maintain intimate relationships in Indian country should be allowed to beat their wives and girlfriends in violation of tribal laws simply because of their non-Indian status.”

“Just as no person has the right to go to Canada, violate women, and then complain that Canadian courts do not adhere to the U.S. Constitution, nor should criminals be afford such arguments when they enter Indian country,” adds Ryan Dreveskracht, an Indian affairs lawyer with Galanda Broadman. “Indeed, the nation should be appalled that lawmakers such as Sen. Hutchinson are suggesting that such arguments have any merit at all.”

Hutchison’s views could be especially dangerous to Native women if a replacement bill she is writing with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ends up gaining steam. Grassley has also spoken out against tribal provisions in the proposed VAWA reauthorization, saying they weaken federal sovereignty.

While Hutchison and Grassley have yet to offer their specific legislation, Hutchison promises in her editorial that it “will have a sound, practical alternative to protect Native American women.”

Hutchison’s office has not explained her ideas for protecting Native women.

NCAI, meanwhile, is offering some insight on the Hutchison/Grassley bill: “We know that Hutchison’s alternative would strip the current provisions that deal with tribal jurisdiction (namely Sections 904 and 905 of S.1925) and may offer provisions that would expand state or local jurisdiction over Indian country VAWA crimes,” the tribal advocacy organization offered in an April 13 action alert, based on its own sources.

“If Senator Hutchison is successful in stripping the tribal amendments from the VAWA Reauthorization bill, she will not only harm Native women, but she will harm the American communities that surround Indian reservations as well,” Jackman adds. “All Americans should be disgusted at the number of crimes committed by non-Indians on reservations that goes unprosecuted by federal and state authorities—the sole entities with jurisdiction to prosecute.”

NCAI went on to report in the action alert that “while in all likelihood the Hutchison alternative bill will fail,” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, intends to offer a floor amendment to S.1925 “that will strip all of the key tribal provisions of the bill.”

Kyl’s office has not responded to questions about this possibility.

The proposed VAWA reauthorization containing the tribal provisions currently has 61 co-sponsors in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has yet to call for a vote, although his office says to expect one soon.

Related: Tribal Provisions of Women Safety Law Under Senate Attack

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Announcing a New Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program Resource

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in partnership with the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women introduces a new Supervised Visitation Program Resource!
This interactive website provides up-to-date information for grantees, non-grantees, community partners, judges, advocates, visitation providers, and units of government on all aspects of this important grant program.
We encourage you to visit the website and navigate its features.  Please feel free to share the news of this comprehensive resource with the public.
If you have questions please feel free to contact Michele Robinson at (775) 784-6427

 This project was supported by Grant No. 2008-TA-AX-K064 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this website/publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice or the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.


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NCADV's and NOMAS' 2012 Conference: Preserving Our Roots While Looking to the Future

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
NCADV's and NOMAS' 2012 Conference:  
 Preserving Our Roots While Looking to the Future  

July 21-25, 2012
Denver, CO   
Save $50 per person if you register now.
Click here to go to our 2012 conference website:

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