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Letter to the Editor: Justice due for abused tribal women

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Justice due for abused tribal women

That beaten and bruised woman is your mother, your sister or your daughter, yet all we do is stand by as she continues to be assaulted and raped by her abuser. This is all too common in our communities, especially among the tribal communities.
The Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization (VAWA) is moving along through the House of Representatives, and its fate will be determined very soon with a few striking provisions. Finally, protection of Native Americans will be addressed through the provision S. 1925, which has been overlooked for quite some time now. Despite shocking statistics revealing that 60 percent of Native American women will be physically assaulted in their lifetime, 34 percent of American Indian and Alaska native women will be raped in their lifetime. The murder rate for Native American women is 10 times more than the national rate. There was no sense of urgency that led to reform in the past to ensure protection of this population.

This provision to VAWA fills the gap in previous versions. The tribal government has long been put in the unfortunate position to leave these abused, exploited women without any hope, as these non-tribal perpetrators were not legally able to be prosecuted.
It is a hope that our country will no longer tolerate this loophole that has allowed non-native men to continue to abuse and rape Native American women on tribal land.

Provision S. 1925 provides a concurrent jurisdiction between the U.S. federal court and the tribal government for crimes committed in Native American land, namely domestic violence, dating violence and violation of protection orders.
It only seems fitting that such legal power should involve the tribal government, just as the U.S. is able to take legal action towards those who are not U.S. citizens.

We support the VAWA reauthorization of 2013 and the essential rights to keep all women free from abuse, rape and any other form of violence.

Ashley Pipes, Christine Le, Joyce Witcher, Julie Le and Lisa Vu are graduate social work students at Cal State Long Beach

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