Violence Against Women

Tribal nations are committed to securing public safety for tribal citizens and other Americans who live and work on reservations. However, legal barriers to the effective administration of justice create an environment where American Indian and Alaska Native Women are battered, raped, and stalked at far greater rates than any other population of women in the United States.

Since the establishment of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women in 2003, enhancing the safety of Native women has been a critical focus of NCAI’s work.

Despite the federal trust obligation to protect Indian communities, violence against Native women in the United States has reached epidemic proportions and greatly exceeds that of any other population of women in the United States: 34 percent of Native women are raped in their lifetimes, and 39percent are victims of domestic violence. According to a 2010 GAO Study, U.S. Attorneys decline to prosecute 67 percent of sexual abuse and related matters that occur in Indian country. These appalling statistics demonstrate the urgent need to address the legal and resource barriers that prevent tribal nations from protecting their female citizens.

The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 clarified that the unique legal relationship of the United States to Indian tribes creates a federal trust responsibility to assist tribal governments in safeguarding the lives of Native women. Yet the ongoing violence against Native women shows that this responsibility has not been fulfilled. Indian nations have broad legislative authority to make decisions impacting the health and safety of their respective communities, but the legal restrictions the United States has placed upon the inherent jurisdictional authority that tribal nations maintain over their respective territories have created systemic barriers that deny Native women access to justice and prevent them from living free of violence or the threat of violence. On a daily basis, this violence threatens the lives of Native women and the future of Native people.

While many issues need to be addressed to confront this human rights crisis, it is clear that limitations placed on tribal government jurisdiction by the United States are a key contributing factor, with non-Native perpetrators falling through the cracks in the system time and time again. The NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women supports congressional restoration of tribal authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence and related crimes on tribal lands. Additionally, the Task Force supports national legislation and policy that contains tribal specific provisions that would provide tribes with the resources needed to prosecute violent crimes committed against Indian women and to adequately serve Native victims, as well as enhance tribal sovereignty. With proper authority and adequate resources, tribes can restore safety in their communities and heal them from the violence, pain, and trauma they have endured over generations.

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