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Hunter among those voted against extending protections to all women

By Miriam Raftery

January 26, 2013 (San Diego’s East County ) – One in four women has been a victim of domestic violence and nearly one in five has been raped during their lifetime, the Center for Disease Control reports.  Yet last year, House Republicans blocked reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act  (VAWA),  allowing it to expire rather than approve a Democratic proposal to expand  protections  from domestic violence for  Native American women, immigrant women and gay women.  

Now,  programs  funded by VAWA  for all women are in danger of disappearing, unless Congress takes action. Nationwide, VAWA supporters are organizing efforts to persuade Congress to pass a newly introduced VAWA bill before funds for all VAWA programs run out.

Advocates  of last session's VAWA measure hoped to end discrimination that has prevented  many women from getting help after violent assaults. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other racial group; one in three has been raped.  Undocumented immigrant women are often afraid to report domestic violence for fear of deportation. Battered women in same-sex relationships have been discriminated against when seeking shelter 45% of the time.

VAWA expired in late 2011, but funds remained short-term due to the budgeting timetable.  Soon, however,  VAWA programs will cease unless Congress opts to reauthorize them.  A compromise measure recently introduce drops a key protection for undocumented immigration women victimized by domestic violence, however Democrats hope to include the provision in a comprehensive immigration bill later on.

VAWA, first enacted in 1994 and reauthorized twice since then,  has been effective at dramatically reducing domestic violence.   From 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence dropped 67% nationwide.  Homicides due to domestic violence also fell sharply.   The National Domestic Violence Hotline, funded by VAWA, has answered over 3 million calls – 22,000 each month. 

The National Congress of American Indians has urged Congress to support reauthorization of VAWA including a provision to allow Native American tribal courts to prosecute on on-native perpetrators, since many Native American women are assaulted by non-Native men, including assaults on tribal lands.  Republicans have claimed the provision would be unconstitutional.

Deborah Parker, a Native American leader from the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state, has said that perpetrators “have raped and abused and then fallen through the cracks” because in her region, the local sheriff has said “Sorry, we don’t have jurisdiction.” 

The American Bar Association has also called on Congress to strengthen tribal jurisdiction to address crimes of gender-based violence on tribal lands in the VAWA reauthorization. 

Last year, the Senate passed VAWA but it was killed in the House; East County Congressman Duncan Hunter (R) was among those who voted against reauthorizing VAWA.  San Diego County has more Native American tribes (19) than any other county in America, as well as a large population of immigrant women.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) this week introduced a new version of VAWA that protects Native American women, but drops an earlier proposal  that would have increased  “U visas”  for undocumented immigrants who are domestic violence victims. U-victims are tools that help law enforcement to prosecute rapists and domestic abusers, enabling victims to come forward without fear of deportation.

“This reauthorization will allow us to make real progress in addressing the horrifying epidemic of domestic violence in tribal communities, where one recent study found that almost three in five Native women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners,” Senator Leahy said upon introducing the measure, S. 47.  Read full text here.  Congresswoman Gwen Moore, who has been a victim of domestic violence, introduced a House version of the same bill , H.R. 11.

NCAI president Jefferson Keel called the provisions “vital to the safety of our Native women and to the Native and non-Native communities where violent offenders are left unchecked if they commit specific crimes of domestic or sexual violence on tribal land.”

Supporters of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act have banded together to create a website a t http://4vawa.org/.  The site includes sample letters that can be sent to members of the House and Senate, as well as links to the group’s Facebook page and Twitter site.

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I am confused

I am confused as usual. It is currently illegal for one human to assault another human. If, according to your article, all this violence against women is going on why is law enforcement not enforcing the current laws against assault? Why do we need additional laws to identify the victim by race or gender or whatever? Maybe instead of re printing press releases or quoting from Senators who cannot even pass a budget you need to go out and do some investigating reporting and find out why our Judaical system is not equally enforcing the common assault laws that have been on the books FOREVER!


As usual the old, WASP, Goldwater Republican is confused. It is already "illegal" for one human to beat up on another human, right? If so, why do we need special laws like VAWA and hate crimes to protect "minorities" or any other special interest group? Why don't we just enforce the law equally to all humans or are you telling me when one drunk male beats up another he gets thrown in jail but if he beats up on his wife he doesn't? If that is so we need to fix law enforcement not the law!


My bet this is more of a feel good "progressive" issue than any real attempt to provide justice to all.

No, the laws are not enough.

In many states if an Indian woman is raped by a white man, local law enforcement does nothing.  Tribal courts are not allowed to do anything.  So rapists get off scott free.  The reverse can be true, if a tribe doesn't take action against a tribal member who beats his wife, she may have no recourse in the courts due to sovereignty.  These situations differ from place to place as some tribes do have cooperative agreements with law enforcement, but others do not.  It seems obvious that if 3 in 5 Native American women are sexually assaulted by partners and 30% are raped in their lifetimes, there are not enough protections. Why are you so opposed to a legal change to give them more protection? Why is this viewed as a "liberal" issue? It should simply be the decent thing to do.

For immigrant women, yes the law would allow them to press charges but if they can be deported for seeking help, many just stay silent.  How does beefing up enforcement help them, if victims are forced to choose between suffering abuse in silence or reporting it and being deported?  This can include young victims, who may not have any other recourse. I have talked in the past with law enforcement representatives who concede this is as quandary.  Police have told me they want laws to protect undocumented women who come forward to report brutal assaults.  What if there's a rapist who attacks an illegal immigrant and she stays silent out of fear -- and next he attacks your daughter or wife?  Don't we want to get rapists off the streets to protect all women?  There are teenage victims of human trafficking who are scared to speak out and help break up these rings. So yes, there are some very compelling arguments for this legal change.

As for gay women being denied access to shelters and services, that may ultimately be decided by the courts if Congress won't act.  Arguably that might be viewed as lacking equal protection under the law and thus violating the constitution.  Absent a law specifically granting them equal access, denials of services will continue to occur unless the Supreme  Court ultimately rules on this which could take many years.  What are abused gay women supposed to do in the meantime?  While it's true that there are laws against assault that can help get someone arrested, if the abuser is out on bail and has made threats, a women needs to be able to get into a shelter immediately.  That's the part that's the problem, not the filing of charges, in the case of gay women. 

We DID do our homework, incidentally, we have reported on this issue last year and did quite a lot of research.  How much have you done, if any?

I do agree with you though that improving enforcement would help in some of these cases, such as in states where Sheriffs turn a blind eye to abuse of Indian women, but that needs to come from within those departments or insisted upon by elected officials in those jursidictions and if there are bigots, it doesn't always happen.  Meawhile it's the abused women who suffer.  Given our country's disgraceful record on Native Americans through out history, this seems to be one place where a small change in the law would protect a lot of people.