VAWA Must Pass to Protect All Women, Regardless of Race

by RUTH HOPKINS

I am a Dakota and Lakota Sioux Native American woman who was born and raised on the reservation. As a girl I was raped; yet I overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become an attorney and later, a tribal judge. For all of these reasons, I am acutely aware of the severity and urgency surrounding the problem of violence against Native American women- as well as how much of a difference the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) can make. Native provisions in VAWA insure that women in the United States are better protected from violence regardless of race or ethnicity. To deny any woman equal protection and access to justice discriminates against all American women.

Lest we forget, only a year ago, minions of the Republican party launched a series of heinous attacks against American women’s’ reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization whose health centers make preventative health education and breast exams available to women of all ages, races, and incomes, was defunded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation- a decision likely made due to political pressure from the Right. Republicans in Virginia introduced a bill that sanctioned the rape of its female constituents. Had it passed, the bill would have required women who were considering having an abortion to have an ultrasound probe inserted into their vaginas, even without their consent.

Contraception coverage by health insurers also came under fire in the U.S. Congress, as an all-male panel, overseen by a Republican committee chairman, refused to allow a female witness to testify. The witness lost an ovary due to ovarian cysts that could have been prevented by taking birth control pills. She was affiliated with the Catholic Church, and they prohibit the use of contraception.

This War on Women awakened a sleeping giant. Ladies were paying attention, as the 2012 election proved. Romney and his “binders full of women” was sent packing, and the 113th Congress now has 20 female Senators, the most it’s had in all of U.S. history. Yet apparently, the knuckle-dragging, misogynistic wing of the Republican party still hasn’t learned its lesson. By blocking the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), they are once again revealing how willfully ignorant they are when it comes to women’s issues, and that they plain just don’t care enough about us to make a concerted effort to protect us from violence, or see that we are afforded the same avenues of justice that men receive.

First made law in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act aids in the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes committed against women. 2012 was the first time VAWA hasn’t been reauthorized. What could be so controversial about protecting women from violent predators?

The continuation of VAWA is desperately needed. According to the National Task Force to End Domestic Violence, a quarter of all American women are victims of domestic violence, and three women are murdered by their partners every single day in this country. At least one in six women has been the victim of a sexual assault.

As abysmal as these statistics are, the rates of violence against Native American women are even higher. One in three Native women is a sexual violence survivor, and the murder rate for Native American women is a staggering ten times the national average. Ironically, it is provisions within VAWA meant to help protect Native American women, as well as LGBT and immigrant women, that Republicans take issue with.

Why is there so much violence against Native American occurring? There’s a complex history behind it as well as a number of socioeconomic factors- but provisions for Native women in VAWA, as proposed, could produce measurable results in stemming this violence because it aims directly at one of the main causes.

Native American women living on Indian reservations are highly susceptible to violence by non-Native men because tribal courts lack jurisdiction over them, even when these crimes are committed on tribal lands. Today, federal and state law enforcement has jurisdiction over domestic violence committed on the reservation, but they often lack the means or incentive to pursue such cases, and state’s attorneys repeatedly decline to take legal action. This means that under our current system, non-Native men who prey upon Native women are pretty much immune from prosecution.

Provisions in VAWA will give tribal courts the ability to prosecute non-Natives who live on tribal lands, all the while affording them the same due process they are given in federal courts. Such action will effectively end an open season on Native American women and girls who are being brutalized, raped and killed, without receiving adequate protections or equal justice for the horrific crimes being committed against them. Do not be fooled by partisan politicians’ race-baiting. Provisions for Native women in the Violence Against Women Act are meant to protect women, not seed exclusive dominion to tribes.

No woman deserves to be beaten, raped, or killed, regardless of her race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. If Congress fails to reauthorize VAWA, they are complicit to violence committed against all women. Such acquiescence endorses a rape culture. Our own government is trivializing sexual assault and engaging in victim blaming. Women are not second class citizens. Women are the majority. This is country belongs to us all; men and women, of all colors and creeds.

The Senate passed VAWA with provisions on Monday, but a battle for its reauthorization is anticipated to take place in the House of Representatives. We can stop this human rights crisis now. Contact your state representative and let them know where you stand. Tell them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and that we’ll remember their vote on election day.

Ruth Hopkins is a Native American writer, blogger, Judge, administrator, and columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz