Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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Leaders urged to pass Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act on 25th anniversary


It has been 167 days since H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 was passed by the U.S. House of Representative with bipartisan support. Self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has since refused to introduce the bill to the Senate floor for vote, one of over 150 bills that have been in peril in what has been dubbed McConnell’s legislative graveyard.

Opponents of the bill include the National Rifle Association, the largest gun lobby, that opposes a new provision aimed at decreasing violence against women by expanding law enforcement’s ability to strip convicted domestic abusers of their firearms. 

In a New York Times article published on April 1, 2019, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes, “The measure closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by barring those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a dating partner or those subject to a court restraining order from buying or owning firearms.”

Before 1994, domestic violence cases were regarded as a family matter and “police officers were also generally discouraged from intervening in domestic violence cases,” states a Sept. 13 report from Time magazine. 

According the same report, “Before President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act on Sept. 13, 1994, domestic abusers could cross state lines to avoid prosecution for beating their spouses, as law enforcement was not to require to listen to orders of protection filed in other states.” 

Today, many experts credit VAWA with contributing to a dramatic decrease in the rate of domestic violence in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the overall rate of intimate-partner violence dropped 64 percent from 1993 to 2010.”

On the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Act, many organizations and tribal leaders commemorated the legislation and demanded the Republican-controlled Senate to pass H.R 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. 

Earlier this year, the National Congress of American Indians praised H.R. 1585 for its expanded safety measures for Native American victims by building on a provision included in the Violence Against Women Act 2013, which created framework for tribal governments to prosecute non-Indians offenders for domestic and dating violence and criminal violations of protection orders. 

The new legislation “would add child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, obstruction of justice and assaults against law enforcement officers to the crimes that tribes can prosecute against non-Indians,” states a press release from NCAI.

On Friday, Sept.13, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, urged for a Senate vote of the bill.

“The crisis rates of violence against Native women in particular demand our full attention and immediate action. Native women and families deserve to be safe in their homes and in their communities – full stop. That is why it is unacceptable that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up the House-passed Violence Against Women Act reauthorization that includes critical provisions I helped author to promote public safety for women and families in Indian Country,” Udall said.

CRST Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier, who was in Washington, D.C., for Capitol Hill Impact Day, attended the VAWA and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women rally on Thursday, Sept. 12 that was held on Capitol Grounds. Although he did not speak at the rally, he later addressed the need to pass H.R. 1585.

“This Act has done two things – it has put a spotlight on the silent war that our women have had to fight, and it has documented a steep decline in domestic violence for which this act was designed to do. It is a shame that partisan politics in the United States is resulting in the inability of tribal nations to continue to protect our women against the depredations of non-members,” said Chairman Frazier. 

CRST tribal member Carmen O’Leary, who serves as Vice Chair of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, a nonprofit that addresses domestic violence and safety for Indian women whose mission is “to support and uphold grass roots advocacy by creating and enhancing the capacity of Native communities to end gender based violence through technical assistance, education, public awareness and policy development,” spoke at the rally. 

During her speech, O’Leary presented four shawls to represent those whom are served through her organization and who would be protected under the VAWA Reauthorization Act.

“The red shawl is for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, purple is for domestic violence victims, and teal is for sexual assault victims, and white is for those terrorized by stalking. Shawls traditionally represent women and help them carry out so many functions of caring for their families to keeping them warm,” said O’Leary. 

For up to date information about H.R. 1585, and other national legislation, visit www.congress.gov