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Revictimizing Native women for political purposes

Republicans in the U.S. House, including Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, are blocking the expanded authority that tribal police need to deal with violent non-Indian offenders of Native American women on Indian land.
The Tulalip Tribes' Deborah Parker (in hat) at a D.C. rally in support of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passed by the U.S. Senate.

The Tulalip Tribes' Deborah Parker (in hat) at a D.C. rally in support of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passed by the U.S. Senate. National Congress of American Indians/Flickr

Early this week, two U.S. House Representatives members and the Tacoma News Tribune took clear stands against protecting women from sexual assault.  Representatives Todd Akin, R-Missouri, and Steve King, R-Iowa, did so by promoting the concept of “legitimate rape.”  The News Tribune did so by attacking the only real hope for combating the national pandemic of violence against Native women.

As originally passed by the U.S. Senate, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization legislation would allow tribes to exercise limited criminal jurisdiction over certain non-Indians who violate Native American women on Indian reservations. Tribes would be required to provide all rights accorded to defendants in state and federal court, and federal courts would have authority to review tribal court decisions that result in incarceration. The legislation would not raise the one-year maximum sentence that tribal courts can impose. The GOP-controlled House, however, omitted the protections for Indian women in its version of the bill.

Among those voting to omit the tribal protections were vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, U.S. Senate candidate Akin, and House Republican King. In an interview originally broadcast on Sunday, Akin suggested that an abortion would be unnecessary in the instance of a “legitimate rape” because apparently only non-legitimate rape leads to pregnancy — whatever that means. Chiming in agreement, fellow House Rep. King said that he’s never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. While Akin and King quickly recanted, they cannot as simply withdraw their votes against the Senate’s proposed protections for abused Native women. 

Also Monday, The News Tribune (editorial, "Protect Indian women without diluting Bill of Rights") accused tribal governments of having “an agenda of their own: They see the domestic violence issue as a way to assert and reclaim broader sovereign powers.” The editorial is wrong. Indian Country sees the the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization as a way to protect Indian women from being violently assaulted.

The paper got one thing right, however. It did describe “an intolerable gap of justice” caused by the fact that tribes cannot assert jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of violence and that federal and state governments are too busy to do so. This is the result of a 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court decision — a case that arose on Washington state’s own Kitsap Peninsula — which held that that tribal governments cannot criminally prosecute non-Indians. What has since resulted from Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe is a jurisdictional gap where non-Indians can enter Indian reservations and literally get away with murder — or, more commonly, rape. Indeed, sex offenders are now using Indian reservations as safe havens to commit sex crimes against Indian women. Consider these statistics:

  • Native women suffer violent crime at the highest rates in the country.
  • On many reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average.
  • Violent crime rates in Indian Country are more than 2.5 times the national rate; some reservations face a rate 20 times higher.

The federal government has jurisdiction to convict these offenders, but it fails to do so. On some reservations, as few as three federal officers are responsible for patrolling millions of acres of land. These officers are typically located a substantial distance from tribal communities and are generally unaware of the exigency of many of the reported incidents of domestic violence. According to a 2006 Amnesty International study, it is not uncommon for Native victims of assault to “have to wait hours or days to receive a response from police and, in many situations, [victims] receive no response at all.” In the Navajo Nation, for example, 329 rape cases were reported in 2007 — five years later, there have been only 17 arrests.

Here in Washington, an antiquated federal law has granted local police officers the power to enforce the state’s law upon non-Indians within Indian Country. But the result is the same. The surrounding and generally larger non-Indian community does not provide policing to adequate levels. For decades, despite much outrage by tribal victims of domestic violence — victims such as Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker — complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The most recent study to assess the issue has concluded that state criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country has actually caused an increase in crime.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 5:27 a.m. Inappropriate

So, one piece of legislation slips through without a concession to Tribal Campaign Money. Can't win them all, Ryan. In the affordable Health Care Act, Congress recently granted "members of indian tribes" exemptions from the personal mandate (buy insurance or pay a fine!) under which others must labor. Be content with that for a while. Surely, as we speak, some "representatives" are working to expand tribal authorities. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune, no?

I wonder what these guys have to fight about:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/us/more-casinos-and-internet-gambling-threaten-shakopee-tribe.html?pagewanted=all

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

The author has consumed too much Kool-Aid© methinks.

This sop to the tribes violates constitutional rights of the masses.

Here in Snoco, the electeds suck up majorly to the tribes, and to suggest they ingnore prosecution of crimes on tribal land just doesn't pass the chuckle test.

As an author published in reference texts on the subject of Domestic Violence, I can tell you that the premis just does not exist!

Additionally, and more importantly, it would subject US Citizens to laws of a soverign that they have no knowledge of! No less than a Supreme Court Justice confirmed to me that tribes do not have to, and often don't, publish their laws.

This provision, as well as the Senate VAWA bill, are unconstitutional, because of the Senate's own greed (Sen. Leahy's attempt to put some pork for his state in it).

This is not one to stake your argument on.

The Geezer

Geezer

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 9:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Oh, and........Obama's full quote referred above, revealed due to sloppy non-editing by KOMO 4, shows what he really is about.

The quote was "rape is rape, whether non-consensual, or consensual"

OR CONSENSUAL? Rape? Win The Future, Mr. President. Obama defines rape now as to "how you feel about what happened last night in the morning".

Geezer OUT>

Geezer

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 11:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Non-Indian rapists on Indian land?? Please offer specific cases and numbers. Perhaps Black's Law Dictionary and other legal codes, statutes, laws, and cases are required in order to walk through the weeds of definitions of rape. Statuatory rules, ages of consent, same-sex rape, jurisdictional issues, within marriage rape, date rape, degrees of rape? (similar to 1st, 2nd degree murder), and other legal distinctions would all be helpful. So would a full statistical and demographic breakdown of rapists and victims. This can of worms is cleverly avoided when politicians merely sum up their beliefs with the sloganeering "I am pro-choice" and "I am pro-life" and then silent on all the messy details.

animalal

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 11:50 a.m. Inappropriate

The last time I checked, it wasn't the "constitutional right" of the masses to rape and murder on our reservations and then not be subjected to any legal recourse. That may be your opinion, that may be a loophole in our legal system, but it is inhumane. If we did that off reservation we would be subject to laws just as you are. Why wouldn't any decent human being see that protecting women against rapists and murderers is a good idea?

What is wrong with a society and individuals who cannot see the injustice of our current system and clearly identify the need for VAWA, complete with provision protecting Native women, to be passed. Why are our women not worth protecting? Because that's really what's being said here. Genocide continues? That's what it looks like from my perspective.

As a survivor of two attempted rapes, one of which occurred in elementary school, my opinion might be tainted by FACTS!

Sincerely,
Renee Roman Nose
Survivor

Posted Mon, Aug 27, 2:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Survivor of what, exactly? Where, and by whom? (You brought it up, so don't get mad at me for asking.)

NotFan

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Genocide? Hyperbole much?

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 1:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Renee,

Thanks for your comment and your story - and pay no attention to Crosscut's resident blue light special racist. He's just pissed off that he and his ilk haven't figured out how to slip everyone who runs a tribal casino a smallpox-infested blanket.

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

",,The federal government has jurisdiction to convict these offenders, but it fails to do so. On some reservations, as few as three federal officers are responsible for patrolling millions of acres of land."
Ryan, that sentence is confusing. If the feds have jurisdiction but do not provide the desired level of patrol (do the Indians want that?) then the argument is quite different isn't it? Is it a question of federal manpower? if so, why do we need a new law?. And, I agree with animalal above that some examples would make your argument at least plausible. I think making Ryan and Akin your attack targets reveals more about your motives than the subject itself.

kieth

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 6:45 p.m. Inappropriate


There are significant issues related to the administration of tribal criminal justice in WA. Questions of impartiality, fair process and terrible conditions in tribal jails are all presented.

The first non-tribal members sent to tribal jails will cerainly have a bad experience, with no legal way to redress any damages because of soverign immunity.

I recall one tribal jail in the past that was a locked shipping container with a bucket for waste.

I accept that violence against tribal women by outsiders is a real problem, but the answer is aggressive prosecution in state courts, not this proposal.

Skippy

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