Washington D.C. –
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, issued the following statement in response to the narrow passage of H.R. 4970, the House version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012, by a vote of 222-205.
“I am extremely disappointed that the House of Representatives failed to stand with the Senate to combat violence against Native women and close jurisdictional loopholes that give perpetrators a free pass to abuse Native women in their own communities. The House bill continues to leave Native women vulnerable, while non-Native abusers escape any responsibility for their crimes,” said Akaka.
“The Senate bill incorporated my Stand Against Violence and Empower (SAVE) Native Women Act, which I introduced last October to strengthen protections for Native women who suffer the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in the country. My bill and the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, would restore the authority of Indian tribes to prosecute non-Native abusers of Native women at the local level. Unfortunately, the House did not include this important provision in the version of the bill it passed yesterday.”
“We worked very closely with our colleagues across the aisle in both this committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is why our bill won strong bipartisan support during Senate passage. As the two chambers move to work out their differences in conference, I hope the House negotiators will choose to do the right thing and protect all victims of these disturbing crimes and bring their attackers to justice.”
According to a report by the Department of Justice, nearly three out of five Native American women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners, and one third of all American Indian women will be raped during their lifetimes. A recent Census report states that over half of Native women are married to non-Native men, who do not fall under tribal jurisdiction and cannot be prosecuted by tribal governments.
H.R. 4970, sponsored by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), did not include improvements for Native women contained in S. 1925, the Senate version of the bill. Senator Akaka co-sponsored S. 1925, which the Senate passed last month by a vote of 68-31, including the support of 15 Republicans and all 17 female Senators.
More than 300 organizations oppose the House bill, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Congress of American Indians, and National Organization for Women.
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