FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

VAWA Must Pass to Protect All Women, Regardless of Race

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.

More articles by:

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton and Mdewakanton Dakota, Hunkpapa Lakota) is an author, blogger, biologist, activist, judge, columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network, and founding writer with Lastrealindians.com.

November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
Ron Jacobs
Impeach!
Lawrence Davidson
A Tale of Two Massacres
José Tirado
A World Off Balance
Jonah Raskin
Something Has Gone Very Wrong: An Interview With Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán
J.P. Linstroth
Myths on Race and Invasion of the ‘Caravan Horde’
Dean Baker
Good News, the Stock Market is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth
David Rosen
It’s Time to Decriminalize Sex Work
Dan Glazebrook
US Calls for a Yemen Ceasefire is a Cynical Piece of Political Theatre
Jérôme Duval
Forced Marriage Between Argentina and the IMF Turns into a Fiasco
Jill Richardson
Getting Past Gingrich
Dave Lindorff
Not a Blue Wave, But Perhaps a Foreshock
Martha Rosenberg
Dangerous, Expensive Drugs Aggressively Pushed? You Have These Medical Conflicts of Interest to Thank
Will Solomon
Not Much of a Wave
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Yemeni War Deaths are Five Times Higher Than You’ve Been Led to Believe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail