Protect Native American Women from Sexual Assault

Target: Rep. John Boehner, Speaker of the House; Rep. Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader

Goal: Ensure the protection of Native women from assault by non-Native perpetrators.

One in three Native American women is a victim of sexual assault. Despite this grim statistic, federal legislation aimed at protecting Native women and effectively prosecuting their attackers has stalled over the past year. Tell lawmakers that the United States cannot and must not ignore violence against Native women–sign the petition asking Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor to accept legislation that will defend the rights of Native women.

The Violence Against Woman Act, initially passed in 1994 under the Clinton administration, essentially extends federal aid toward the prosecution of violent crimes against women. The Act was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. Earlier this year the Senate reauthorized VAWA again, but the act has been languishing in the House of Representatives, largely due to controversy over Senate-added provisions for Native women, gay men, lesbians, and undocumented immigrants. Debates over these factors have stymied VAWA’s progress and prevented the passage of legislation that is sorely needed in Native communities.

According to Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now blog, the Senate’s version of the Violence Against Women Act returns jurisdiction to tribal courts “in cases of domestic violence committed by non-Native men on tribal land.” Current laws do not grant tribal courts jurisdiction over cases with non-Native perpetrators; these crimes are investigated and tried by federal and state institutions. Sadly, these cases are rarely prioritized by outside authorities.

Recently, however, Representatives Darrell Issa and Tom Cole introduced the Violence Against Indian Women Act, which Amnesty International says would “[address] some of the concerns raised by those who oppose the inclusive VAWA, while still ensuring that Native American women receive protection.”

We cannot allow acts of violence against Native women to continue to go unpunished. Help seek justice for Native women who have been sexually assaulted–sign the petition asking Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to accept Representatives Issa and Cole’s compromise.


Dear Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor,

One in three Native women is a victim of sexual assault. Just as appalling is the fact that under current law tribal authorities cannot prosecute non-Native perpetrators, even if the assault was committed on tribal land. Since some studies show that the majority of Native women’s attackers are non-Native men, this legal loophole allows an alarming degree of leniency for perpetrators while denying justice to victims and their families.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that legislation be passed to remove the prosecution of sexual assault from the hands of outside authorities, many of whom do not prioritize crimes committed on tribal lands, and place it back where it belongs: with tribal leaders. To that end, I implore you to accept H.R. 6625, the Violence Against Indian Woman Act. The compromise Representatives Issa and Cole have proposed will help clear away some of the obstacles that have prevented the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

Please do not allow justice for these women to be delayed any longer.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jeff Kubina via Flickr

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