Interfaith Letter In Support of Provisions for Native Women in VAWA Legislation
INTERFAITH LETTER IN SUPPORT OF PROVISIONS FOR NATIVE WOMEN IN VAWA LEGISLATION
December 5, 2011
[Judiciary Committee Senator]
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear [Judiciary Committee Senator]:
Thank you for your work on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. We write to support, in particular, the parts of the bill that address violence against Native American women. We value the recognition of the particular needs of Native women in the current Violence Against Women Act, but it seems that more needs to be done. The following facts illustrate this need:
• American Indian and Alaska Native women continue to experience extremely high rates of domestic and sexual violence: 34 percent (one in three) of American Indian or Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime, and 39 percent (two in five) will suffer domestic violence.
• It is also unlikely that the perpetrators of this violence will be prosecuted -- even more unlikely than in cases that occur outside of Indian Country. Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute 75 percent of adult rapes and 72 percent of child sexual assaults that occurred in Indian Country between 2004 and 2005.
• Under current law, a non-Indian who commits an act of domestic violence against an Indian woman cannot be prosecuted in tribal court, which has allowed abusers to repeat offenses of domestic or date violence in tribal communities.
The "Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act," S. 1763, introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka and considered in the Indian Affairs Committee, includes provisions to clarify and extend the authority of tribal law enforcement officers and courts to cover domestic violence offenses against Native women by non-native abusers. The bill would also authorize sentencing that is equivalent to sentences for similar crimes in surrounding jurisdictions. We appreciate and support the inclusion in S. 1925 of language similar to that proposed in S. 1763, along with other provisions that will allow tribal law enforcement authorities to respond more effectively to a troubling and persistent problem in Indian Country.
As faith-based organizations, we work to address the injustices of poverty and the injustices that cause poverty. We see that unchecked violence in an urban area, in a town, or in Indian Country can be a cause of poverty, driving away businesses, training opportunities, and residents. When tribes lack the necessary authority to establish and maintain a safe community, they find additional challenges in attracting and creating a positive future for the tribe’s members. Without mandating long prison sentences or requiring specific responses to crimes committed in Indian Country, the amendments proposed in S. 1763 place authority over community safety where it belongs, in the hands of tribal leaders.
There are other provisions of the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 that are commendable, but today we specifically express our support for the recognition of the inherent authority of tribal governments to exercise jurisdiction over all citizens on their homelands. We are grateful that the Senate Judiciary Committee has incorporated provisions similar to those of S. 1763 in its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary
Church of the Brethren
Jordan Blevins, Director of Peace Witness Ministries
Church Women United
Blanche Smith, Chair of Action and Global Concerns
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Amy Echeverria, Director
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
T. Michael McNulty, SJ, Justice and Peace Director
The Episcopal Church
Sara Eagle Heart, Program Officer for Native American/Indigenous Ministries
DeWayne L. Davis, Domestic Policy Analyst
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Jessica Crist, Montana Synod, ELCA Conference of Bishops
Rev. Andrew Gaensler, Director, Washington Office
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Director
National Advocacy Center, Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Sister Gayle Lwanga Crumbly, National Coordinator
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA,
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director
Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk
J. Herbert Nelson II, Director, Office of Public Witness
Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
Ann Ferguson, President and Program Coordinator
The United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Mari Castellanos, Policy Advocate for Domestic Issues
United Methodist Church
General Board of Church and Society
Jim Winkler, General Secretary
United Methodist Church – Women’s Division
Susie Johnson, Executive Secretary for Public Policy
For information, please contact:
Friends Committee on National Legislation