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Quick Hit: Native American Women and Legal Protection Against Assault

While domestic violence and sexual assault is an issue we in the feminist community are familiar with, we sometimes tend to leave some people out of the conversation. For example, what ethnicity do you think has the highest rate of violence against women?

Chances are you might not have even thought to guess Native American women. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races.



That leaves statistics to say 1 in 3 Native American women have been sexually assaulted.  Also, in a 2008 CDC study, 39% of Native women surveyed identified as victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, a rate higher than any other race or ethnicity surveyed. However, with an under reporting of crimes to tribal authorities and complications when assaults involve non- Native Americans, these numbers are not even as accurate as they could be. The Washington Post explains,


For decades, when a Native American woman has been assaulted or raped by a man who is non-Indian, she has had little or no recourse. Under long-standing law in Indian country, reservations are sovereign nations with their own police departments and courts in charge of prosecuting crimes on tribal land.

However, with advancements in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), three Native American tribes this week launched programs that now give them the legal jurisdiction to prosecute domestic violence crimes involving non- Native Americans with Native American women. This is a huge step toward bringing cases to light and getting them through the legal system. The US Department of Justice announced the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon have all met requirements to implement legal provisions for the law. While other tribes need to wait until 2015 to start using this law, it is a great step toward providing visibility for Native American women.  There are still complications to be worked out, but many say the new law “is a ray of hope. Maybe we can start protecting people and having the tribal members who live here on the reservation feel like something will be done.”


2 Responses to “Quick Hit: Native American Women and Legal Protection Against Assault”

  1. SarahStar77

    This is horrible. I am so glad you brought this up. I would have never guessed that Native American women are the most likely ethnic group to be sexually assaulted. It is wonderful that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will give Native American tribes legal jurisdiction to prosecute domestic violence crimes that involve non-Native Americans with Native American women. Native Americans have been persecuted for too long in our country and I am so happy that something is being done to further protect Native American women today. What other regulations or methods do you think need to be implemented to protect Native American women? Nice post thanks for sharing this with us.


  2. ladylikesailormouth

    You know, I am not totally sure regulation wise because it gets a little tricky legally with Native American tribes. They are self- policing so you don’t want to intrude on their autonomy to enforce law, however you want to make sure everyone is getting equal protection. I do think an effective change would be having women’s voices represented more in Native American leadership roles. Having more women’s voices can help make their culture as well as ours more conscious of violence against all women.



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