GOP Kills Violence Against Women Act
I sent a letter to House Majority Eric Cantor to bring to the floor a chance to pass the Violence Against Women Act that holds a provision giving Tribes the ability to go after offenders that have literally been getting a free pass to abuse and exploit American Indian / Alaska Natives for hundreds of years. The remoteness of reservations and rural villages makes us easy pickings and proving grounds for predators. The State and many staff with our federal delegation get so uneasy giving Tribes any sort of authority even though it is impossible for them, or fail to invest in the resources to fill the gap. Let’s change things.
The above words come from one of my favorite Alaskan women—entrepreneur and activist Michelle Sparck. It seemed like a no-brainer. The Violence Against Women Act showed all the signs it would pass easily through the House this year. After all, it was reauthorized in 2000 and in 2005, and it passed the Senate easily last spring, co-sponsored by liberal Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and conservative Republican Mike Crapo of Idaho. The vote was 68-31. That was back in April.
“I urge my colleagues in the House to quickly approve the Senate’s bipartisan bill,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. He also urged monkeys to fly, and unicorns to start pooping money ASAP. Laurel Bellows, the head of the American Bar Association, explains the importance of adding slight modifications to the bill which would allow for basic protections of America’s indigenous women.
“…under our law, Native American women are not effectively protected, and the controversial House of Representatives’ version of the Violence Against Women Act would do nothing to address the problem.
Native American women are left vulnerable even though they are more likely to be the targets of rape and violence than any other demographic group. If a woman is assaulted on non-tribal lands, police can arrest her attacker and that person can be processed through the local justice system. Not so on tribal lands. Instead, if a Native woman is the victim of domestic or sexual violence by a non-Indian attacker on tribal lands, her attacker is apt to go free.
Tribal law enforcement cannot fully protect Native American women. Non-Native Americans cannot be arrested for raping, beating or stalking Native Americans on their own lands. Instead, tribal officials can only hold perpetrators until local, state or federal law enforcement arrive. Sometimes law enforcement never does.
What’s more, tribal nations are prohibited by U.S. law from prosecuting major crimes committed by non-Natives on Indian reservations. State or federal law enforcement is required to step in. But U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute half of violent crimes on reservations between 2005 and 2009. Sixty-seven percent of those cases were related to sexual abuse.”
The bill that passed the Senate, would have allow for tribes to prosecute non-Indian/Native suspects in violent crimes against Indian/Native women on Native land. It also added specific protections for immigrant women, and lesbian women. Sparck’s letter to Cantor goes further in explaining the dire need for this reform as it specifically relates to Alaska.
December 31, 2012
Office of the Majority Leader
H-329, The Capitol
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Via Facsimile: 202 225 0011
Dear Majority Leader Cantor:
ArXotica is a woman owned bath and beauty business in Western Alaska, we are triplet sisters and are members of the Qissunamiut Tribe of Chevak. Growing up in remote parts of our State, starting at a young age, all too often we saw or heard of sexual assault against our cousins and contemporaries, and no means to prevent, stop or punish it. We are so far removed from First Responders that many family and friends are constantly ripped apart from having to go against our own in the fight for simple stability, safety and therapeutic care for our fragile victims.
The recent horrific sexual assault and resulting death of or a young medical student in India and the backlash it receives as an indicator that things must be done to protect their women is as much true for reservations and tribal lands across this first world country. In our storied careers, from work on Capitol Hill to various Tribal entities across the nation, we find a common ground that our Native women and children are not given even the most rudimentary protections that our American towns, counties and States enjoy under the umbrella of public safety policies.
Please Leader Cantor, consider for a moment that all women in our country were as fearful and frequently victimized as they are in India, other developing nations and Indigenous parts of our country, and realize that U.S. autonomy is not in danger with basic Tribal provisions put forth by Representatives Issa and Representative Cole, himself a member of the Chickasaw Nation that come close but not all the way to the Senate version authored by U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), lead author of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and joined by U.S. Senators Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, and Amy Klobuchar and others.
We join our sister Deborah Parker, Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes in making a plea on behalf of women and children much more vulnerable than us, to pass the Violence Against Women Act with the Tribal provisions that would make it effective and promising of the general public safety and well-being of our Nation’s American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Quyana, thank you for your time and consideration.
Michelle (Macuar) Sparck
CC: The Honorable Don Young, Congressman for All Alaska
Deborah Parker, Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes
Despite Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts to move House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and despite the eloquent pleas of women like Sparck, and Bellows, Cantor and the House did not reauthorize the bill, and so today we are left for the first time since 1994, with nothing. There is no Violence Against Women Act. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Democratic point person on VAWA, said in a statement:
“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right wing of their party always comes first.”
Just as the House GOP leadership would rather see the country’s credit rating downgraded because of their stall on the debt ceiling, or damaged further by their hand in the stonewalling of the “fiscal cliff” bill, so too are they willing to compromise the safety and survival of millions of American women. They’d rather let the law expire than protect Native women, immigrant women, and lesbian women. Once again the Republican Party shows its true face, and once again we ask how any woman can support that party with her membership, her donation, or her vote.