Washington, DC – The Friends Committee on National Legislation commended lawmakers for including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the omnibus spending package passed yesterday. This long overdue reauthorization will be especially impactful for Native communities, where domestic and sexual violence occurs at unparalleled rates, and where cases involving murder or sexual assault frequently go unprosecuted.
“For too long, tribal communities have been under-resourced and under-supported in their pursuit of justice,” said FCNL General Secretary Bridget Moix. “By reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act as part of the omnibus spending package, lawmakers are helping chart a more just and secure future for Native communities across the country.”
VAWA, first passed in 1994 to address violence and sexual assault in the United States, was last reauthorized in 2013 before expiring in 2018. This new reauthorization, based on legislation introduced last month by a bipartisan group of senators, will expand tribal criminal jurisdiction. This expansion will include jurisdiction over child, dating, domestic, and sexual violence; sex trafficking; coercion; stalking; violations of protection orders; obstruction of justice; and assault of tribal justice personnel.
The reauthorization also establishes the first Alaska Pilot Program to address the unique jurisdictional and remote needs of Alaska Native villages. Critically, it also improves tribal access to federal crime databases. Together, these provisions represent a significant step forward in addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.
Ninety-seven percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women who are victims of violence have experienced that violence at the hands of non-Native perpetrators, yet a large proportion of these cases go uninvestigated and unprosecuted. In solidarity with tribal nations and tribal organizations, FCNL and its advocates have long called for more congressional support in addressing this tragedy of violence.
“Expanding tribal criminal jurisdiction strengthens the capacity of tribes to exercise their sovereign authority to protect their citizens,” said Portia K. Skenandore-Wheelock, FCNL’s Native American advocacy program congressional advocate. “The ability of tribal nations to hold all perpetrators accountable is directly linked to protecting tribal communities from further violence and truly getting a handle on this crisis.”
As a Quaker organization, FCNL continues a historic commitment to working in solidarity with Native American communities in support of the full realization of their rights.
To learn more, please visit www.fcnl.org.