HUNTER, BILBRAY AND ISSA VOTE TO WEAKEN PROTECTIONS FOR NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN & OTHER MINORITIES VICTIMIZED BY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

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By Miriam Raftery

May 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) sharply criticized HR 4970, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a narrow 222-205 vote.  The House version of the Violence Against Women Act contained amendments that weaken protections for domestic violence victims on tribal lands, as well as for immigrant and gay women.

It's a shame that this so-called violence against women bill could actually cause violence to women," said Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego), who voted against the measure. "This bill is outright dangerous."

But San Diego’s three Republican Congressmen—Duncan Hunter, Brian Bilbray and Darrell Issa—all voted for the House measure. 

Bob Filner (D-San Diego) was not present during the vote.

Juana Majel Dixon, co-chair of the NCAI task force on violence against women, said that provisions in HR 4970 “create additional hurdles for Indian women seeking protection from violence on tribal lands, and that is unacceptable.”

The group suggested that the Republican-controlled House bill is racist, failing to protect Native American women who are victimized by non-Indian men. 

NCAI opposes the House measure, but supports an alternative measure in the Democratic-controlled Senate, S. 1925. Dixon says the Senate bill would “empower the governmental authorities closets to the alleged criminal activity—tribal police and courts-to intervene early in acts of domestic violence committed by non-Indians within the tribe’s territory, before the violence escalates to the point of serious assault or homicide.”

The actions revived accusations of a Republican-waged war on women. 

Democrat Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, who was once raped and violently assaulted by an acquaintance, gave an impassioned plea against the Republican version of the bill.  “This is a direct assault on women’s lives,” she said, adding that three women die each day of domestic violence.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also denounced HR 4970, which it say “rolls back current law and eliminates important provisions in S. 1925, thereby denying services to many victims of domestic violence.  For example, H.R. 4970 rolls back current law on confidentiality, making it more risky for immigrant victims to seek help from the police and thus imperiling their safety and survival.  Despite the well-documented unacceptably high rates of domestic violence on tribal lands, H.R. 4970 eliminates provisions that would make it easier for Native women to obtain orders of protection from their abusers.  In addition, H.R. 4970 drops all the provisions that would ensure access to services for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said she supported the bill to make sure that “money is better spent.”

Republican Congresswoman Sandy Adams, author of the House bill, accused Democrats of singling out minority groups for special treatment to win votes, a move she called “dangerous.”

Pressed during floor debate to list groups in support of her bill, however, Adams was unable to name a single one.

For now, protection for all women victimized by domestic violence remains in limbo, until House and Senate leaders can craft a compromise.