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VAWA: A Call to Action

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Published on Mar 10, 2015

On March 7, 2015, Tribal governments may elect to begin exercising jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, or violate a protection order against a Native victim on tribal lands.

Three tribes exercised this expanded jurisdiction during the pilot phase of VAWA implementation: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and the Tulalip Tribes. In a year’s time, these tribes charged a total of 26 Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction cases.

Violence against Native women has reached epidemic proportions. The root cause is a justice system that forced tribal governments to rely on distant federal — and in some cases, state —officials to investigate and prosecute misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence committed by non-Indians against Native women. However, outside law enforcement has proven ineffective in addressing misdemeanor level reservation-based domestic violence.

The Justice Department has found that when non-Indian cases of domestic violence go uninvestigated and unpunished, offenders’ violence escalates. The 2013 VAWA Reauthorization authorizes tribal governments to investigate and prosecute all crimes of domestic and dating violence regardless of the race of the offender.

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