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Study confirms high rate of violence against Native women and men

Filed Under: Law | National | Politics
More on: 114th, doj, jon tester, jurisdiction, niwrc, race, s.2785, scia, senate, vawa, violence, women
     
   

The cover art for the report, Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men. Illustration by Sam English via National Institute of Justice

A new study from the Department of Justice confirms that Native American women and men continue to face extremely high rates of violence.

Based on data from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, researchers found that 84.3 percent of Native women and 81.6 percent of Native men experienced violence in their lifetimes. That accounts for more than 4 out of 5 Native Americans, according to the report.

"Overall, more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime," the report stated, adding that more than 1.4 million Native men have suffered.

When looking at more recent incidents, the study also uncovered alarmingly high rates. More than 1 in 3 Native women, or 39.8 percent, and more than 1 in 3 Native men, or 34.6 percent, suffered violence in the past year, researchers at the National Institute of Justice determined.

And both Native women and Native men were more likely to be victimized by people of another race, according to the study. That's one of the reasons why the push to restore tribal jurisdiction over all offenders has been a big issue in Indian Country.

"Information about the race of the perpetrator is particularly important for American Indian and Alaska Native victims because it impacts the criminal jurisdiction," the report stated. "Until recently, Indian tribes had no authority to criminally prosecute non-Indian offenders, even for crimes committed in Indian Country."

The new data in fact paints a picture that appears to be worse than the statistics that tribal advocates cited when Congress was considering the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. According to the report, both Native women and Native men are "significantly more likely" to have experienced sexual violence by a non-Native perpetrator than non-Hispanic White-only victims.

"Among American Indian and Alaska Native victims, 96 percent of women and 89 percent of men have experienced sexual violence by an interracial perpetrator," the report stated.

Conversely, both Native women and Native men are "significantly less likely" to have experienced sexual violence by a Native perpetrator than White victims, according to the data.


Native women carry signs reading Project Our Penojek (Children) during a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

Similar findings arose when researchers looked at physical violence, stalking and psychological aggression. In all three situations, Native women and Native men are more likely to have been victimized by a non-Native partner when compared to non-Hispanic White victims.

"While the results on interracial and intraracial victimizations in this report are not surprising, they provide strong support for Indian nations’ sovereign right to prosecute non-Indian offenders," researchers wrote.

The 2013 update to VAWA recognizes the "inherent" authority of tribes to arrest, prosecute and try non-Indians. But the law limits which offenders can be held accountable -- for example, the non-Indian perpetrator must have ties to a tribe -- and it doesn't cover crimes against children or law enforcement personnel.

To address some of those loopholes, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) introduced the Tribal Youth and Community Protection Act last month. Like VAWA, the bill recognizes the "inherent" authority of tribes over any person -- regardless of race -- who commits domestic violence against children and crimes against tribal officers.

The measure goes further and also recognizes tribal jurisdiction over anyone who commits drug related crimes. The lawmakers say the provision will help fight the "growing drug epidemic" in Indian Country.

"This bill gives tribes certainty and provides tribal law enforcement with the tools they need to police and prosecute every criminal in their community," Tester, who serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a press release when S.2785 was introduced. A hearing has not been scheduled on the measure.

The National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, a leading voice in the campaign to restore tribal jurisdiction, will host a webinar on May 18 to discuss the new DOJ report.

National Institute of Justice Report:
Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men (May 2016)

Indian Law and Order Commission Report:
A Roadmap For Making Native America Safer (November 2013)

Related Stories:
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Bill in Senate expands tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders (04/14)
Capitol Hill briefing on Violence Against Women Act in Indian Country (02/22)
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Supreme Court agrees to review yet another Indian law dispute (12/14)
DOJ asks Supreme Court to hear Indian domestic violence case (11/11)
Vice President Joe Biden reflects on triumphs of Obama's Indian policies (10/28)
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Nez Perce Tribe hosts conference to combat violence and abuse (09/09)
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Eric Holder: Responding to sexual violence in Indian Country (11/18)
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