Last Wednesday, House Republicans stooped to a new low by throwing their support behind a ridiculous, callous and watered down version of the Violence Against Women Act. As we detailed last week, the heavily edited H.R. 4970 now moves backward on VAWA reauthorization, with the version that the House passed actually denying protection of undocumented immigrants, Native/indigenous people and LGBT victims of violence. Today’s New York Times documents the plague of sexual assault and rape in the Native American community, shedding light on a horrible reality and further illustrating the need for a VAWA that addresses the realities of women in vulnerable and marginalized populations. From the article:
“One in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape, according to the Justice Department. Their rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average. And no place, women’s advocates say, is more dangerous than Alaska’s isolated villages, where there are no roads in or out, and where people are further cut off by undependable telephone, electrical and Internet service.
The issue of sexual assaults on American Indian women has become one of the major sources of discord in the current debate between the White House and the House of Representatives over the latest reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994.”
Adding to the need for additional federal protections, the article details systematic obstacles to rape victims seeking justice:
“Women say the tribal police often discourage them from reporting sexual assaults, and Indian Health Service hospitals complain they lack cameras to document injuries. Police and prosecutors, overwhelmed by the crime that buffets most reservations, acknowledge that they are often able to offer only tepid responses to what tribal leaders say has become a crisis.”
When the House and Senate bill are reconciled in the conference process, it’s realities like these that need to be considered to ensure we have a VAWA that protects all victims.