Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization 2018 Update by Jordan Marie DanielTweet
“VAWA was set to expire on 9/30 and pretty much did until 12/7/18. Now, Congress has extended federal funding for another 2 weeks until 12/21/18.
Rather than reauthorized or make VAWA permanent, Republicans have attached it to a stop-gap spending bill to use as leverage for a budget fight. Acting noble on TV and voting callous in the shadows is more than a sign of hypocrisy. Manipulating, rather than empowering efforts to curb violence against womxn is a vile and disgusting tactic by an insincere group of men who clearly do not believe it is an “issue.”
Crucial information on the things you need to know about VAWA 2018, Tribal VAWA SDCVJ and the history of VAWA. I’ve also wrote about the growing epidemic of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and included a small but meaningful step such as Savanna’s Act, that will help highlight the need for awareness, data tracking, reporting, and policies to be developed to help document the actual numbers and get justice for the families. I noted those who voted AGAINST VAWA 2013 as well as those who voted FOR Kavanaugh (pay attention). This was an emotionally triggering blog and had a mini anxiety attack after writing this. I hope you enjoy the read!
DEADLINE FOR VAWA 2018 is this Friday, December 21! Call your reps! Make VAWA permanent, Tribal VAWA SDVCJ is working, and pass Savanna’s Act. All explained further in blog. Call, Call, Call!!! Much love, always and in all ways. Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related.
First, this is going to be a lengthy, but in depth blog post that is incredibly important. Enjoy the read!
Second, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should be permanent law. It’s that simple. It comes as no surprise, at least to me, and many womxn I know, that we, and children, should be protected from violence. Laws should be put in place to protect us and our loved ones. Questioning our stories or needing more validations about the trauma we’ve gone through shouldn’t be needed, demanded, to get the action we need to protect us. It’s an arduous and complicated journey for our stories to be believed and to seek justice. Apparently, that’s how it works. In the time of the #MeToo movement, VAWA, and MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls), more and more light is being shed on this troubling issue of violence and homicide in this country, and more specifically, Indian Country. Awareness of the loop holes in the justice system designed to hold Tribal communities back and not provide protections for the victims of violence is finally being seen, but nowhere near enough (to paint a better picture, watch Wind River, it’s on Netflix). VAWA shouldn’t have to be reauthorized every X amount of years and be used in a cat and mouse like game, where mostly Republican congressional members are using VAWA as budget leverage. That’s exactly what happened this year.
In September, the EXACT same time Republicans are feigning concern for womxn, they are quietly using womxn and children, as political leverage. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was set to expire on September 30, and pretty much did, until December 7, 2018. (UPDATE) Now, Congress has extended Federal funding for another 2 weeks until 12/21/18. Rather than reauthorize or make VAWA permanent, Republicans have attached it to a stop-gap spending bill to use as leverage for a budget fight. This should not be partisan, but for some reason it is. Acting noble on TV and voting callous in the shadows is more than a sign of hypocrisy. Manipulating, rather than empowering efforts to curb violence against womxn is a vile and disgusting tactic by an insincere group of men who clearly do not believe it is an “issue.”
And remember this: Some of the very same men who are now on the Judiciary committee that voted to ignore Ms. Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted and put Judge Kavanaugh up for the Supreme Court, also voted AGAINST the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act in 2013: Senators. John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Mike Lee. Remember them, too.
This is just a quick reminder that protections of womxn are not that important on the Hill for some members. That delaying, what should be a permanent decision to protect womxn and children, not only their rights, but their bodies, and protection from their perpetrators, SHOULD BE taken seriously.
Contact your Congressional representatives and remind them that delaying this decision as budget leverage in the Stop-Gap spending bill…. further proves the lack of concern and believing women, means nothing compared to money. Demand they listen your voice, to vote YES for VAWA 2018, YES for Savanna’s Act (I’ll write about this later in blog). It means the continued protection of a man, like Kavanaugh, the very kind of men womxn fear to speak up about, further belittles, degrades, and dilutes the injustices happening to womxn and children.
The Republican Party must be humbled and encouraged to serve the people, and, newsflash: WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. Send the people who consistently vote AGAINST violence against womxn a message.
So, What is VAWA?
VAWA was created to address eliminating domestic and sexual violence. While it has been a work in progress since the time of its conception, it has been progressively getting better, in small steps. In 1994: Senator Joe Biden drafted bill, as well as working many advocates with incredible grassroots efforts, in lieu of Anita Hill hearings. It passed the House and Senate, as part of Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. VAWA was then reauthorized in 2000, 2005, 2013. Why is there a two-year gap?
It expired from 2011-2013. The House and Senate Republicans were against extending protections to immigrants, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ community. When I learned of this fact, I wasn’t surprised, nor did I see a difference in actions from the Republicans in 2011 versus 2018. VAWA 2013 was sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and became Public Law on March 3, 2013, signed by President Barack Obama.
Here are the numbers:
It passed the House on 2/28/13: 286-138
Republican: 87 (Yes) // 138 (No)
Democrat: 199 (Yes)
NV: (Republican: 6 // Democrat: 1)
It passed the Senate on 2/12/13: 78-22
Who voted AGAINST VAWA 2013?
Barrasso (R-WY); Blunt (R-MO); Boozman (R-AR); Coburn (R-OK); Cornyn (R-TX); Cruz (R-TX); Enzi (R-WY); Graham (R-SC); Grassley (R-IA); Hatch (R-UT); Inhofe (R-OK); Johanns (R-NE); Johnson (R-WI); Lee (R-UT); McConnell (R-KY); Paul (R-KY); Risch (R-ID); Roberts (R-KS); Rubio (R-FL); Scott (R-SC); Sessions (R-AL); Thune (R-SD)
Remember when I mentioned those who voted AGAINST VAWA 2013 and the Kavanaugh hearings? Well, I just listed who voted against VAWA 2013. Here is who voted for Kavanaugh in September 2018, the very men questioning and degrading womxn with their votes, rather than protecting womxn, their bodies, the children, and protecting them from their perpetrators:
Republicans that Voted YES (49): ** BOLD = voted against VAWA 2013 reauthorization
Alexander (R-TN); Barrasso (R-WY); Blunt (R-MO); Boozman (R-AR); Burr (R-NC); Capito (R-WV); Cassidy (R-LA); Collins (R-ME / voted for VAWA and co-sponsored); Corker (R-TN); Cornyn (R-TX); Cotton (R-AR); Crapo (R-ID); Cruz (R-TX); Enzi (R-WY); Ernst (R-IA); Fischer (R-NE); Flake (R-AZ); Gardner (R-CO); Graham (R-SC); Grassley (R-IA); Hatch (R-UT); Heller (R-NV); Hoeven (R-ND); Hyde-Smith (R-MS); Inhofe (R-OK); Isakson (R-GA); Johnson (R-WI); Kennedy (R-LA); Kyl (R-AZ); Lankford (R-OK); Lee (R-UT); McConnell (R-KY); Moran (R-KS); Paul (R-KY); Perdue (R-GA); Portman (R-OH); Risch (R-ID); Roberts (R-KS); Rounds (R-SD); Rubio (R-FL); Sasse (R-NE); Scott (R-SC); Shelby (R-AL); Sullivan (R-AK); Thune (R-SD); Tillis (R-NC); Toomey (R-PA); Wicker (R-MS); Young (R-IN).
Democrats that Voted Yes (1):
Manchin III (D-WV)
VAWA REAUTHORIZATION 2018:
VAWA 2018 was introduced on July 26, 2018, by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and on September 19, 2018, it was referred to Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism; Homeland Security, and Investigations. As I mentioned before, it basically expired on 9/30/18. VAWA 2018 is AT RISK of lapsing. It was included and passed in the Defense and Health Spending Bill in September 2018, which meant it was given ONLY short-term reauthorization UNTIL December 21, 2018. There are 173 co-sponsors of the Bill and not a single Republican has signed on.
VAWA SDVCJ: Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country
The Violence Against Women Act of 2013 affirmed that Tribes have the ability to exercise Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ). A statute implemented in 2015, with 18 Tribes who have opted to implement SDVCJ, spanning 11 states. Tribes are using SDVCJ to fight domestic, dating, and sexual violence by prosecuting offenders in their communities. All Tribes have their own courts. Some Tribes are 638 contract, which are agreements with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to assume and exercise control of law enforcement on reservations. This gives Tribes authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of three classifications of crimes: domestic violence, dating violence, and violation of protection orders. Prior to VAWA, non-native/members could commit a domestic violence/dating violence crime on Tribal lands and not be held accountable for their actions due to jurisdictional constraints. Implementation and navigation of this statute has proven to be difficult in dealing with the limits of what crimes can be prosecuted on Tribal lands. This law is empowering Tribes and is a step in recognizing Tribal Sovereignty, while providing some comfort and justice to finally hold offenders accountable, that allows the defendants rights to be recognized and upheld.
VAWA SDVCJ has given Tribes the opportunity to have important discussions and develop effective strategies, to think about what they can do to end the violence happening in their communities and to better protect victims and children. Tribes are creating new Tribal Codes in their constitutions, updating their codes/policies/procedures and having the discussion about the need for Victim Services while working with Domestic Violence (DV)/Sexual Assault (SA) advocates, who work closely with the victims.
It’s pretty great to read “Section 1304 recognizes and affirms that a participating Tribe’s powers of self governance includes the authority to exercise SDVCJ “over all persons.” I mean, we are Sovereign Nations, so we should be able to enforce laws and exercise this authority. VAWA SDVCJ crimes must fall under 3 Categories: Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Violation of certain Protection Orders. A lot of violations happen in regards to Tribal Protection Orders (TPO’s), where some states, don’t recognize a TPO as valid or because it doesn’t look like the State’s protection order, they do not enforce it, therefore, putting the victim are increased risk.
VAWA SDVCJ FACTS (All facts about VAWA SDVCJ can be found in the National Congress of American Indians SDVCJ 5 Year Report, click here and some facts below):
Victim must be Indian.
Crime must take place in Indian Country, of participating Tribe.
Non-Indian defendant must have “sufficient ties to the Indian Tribe,” may include: Residing in Indian Country of participating Tribe; Employed in Indian Country of participating Tribe; Spouse, intimate partner, dating partner of Tribal member, or an Indian who resides in Indian Country of participating Tribe.
SDVCJ under 25 U.S.C. 1304, both “dating violence” and “domestic violence” is limited to “violence committed by a person” who HAS a QUALIFYING relationship with the victim.
Tribes have struggled with determining what constitutes sufficient “violence committed” to support tribal jurisdiction.
Tribes implementing SDVCJ, required only minor changes to the jurisdiction section of their Tribal codes, therefore resulting in faster implementation of the statute.
Other Tribes had to re-write their Tribal Codes or amend their constitutions to comply with the statute.
Tribes who are implementing VAWA SDVCJ:
2014: Pascua Yaqui Tribe (AZ), Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Tulalip Tribes in Washington.
2015: Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation (ND & SD), Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation (MT), Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in Michigan (LTBB), Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.2016: Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi in Michigan, Sac & Fox Nation in Oklahoma, Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in ND and SD, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa in Michigan, Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana.
2017: Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in Washington.
-128 defendants // 128 victims
-90% male defendants // 10% female defendants
-90% female victims // 10% male victims
-115 male defendants // 13 female defendants
-115 female victims // 13 male victims
-8 non-US Citizen defendants
-19 victims required medical care
Prosecutions and Outcomes
-143 arrests // 74 convictions // 24 cases pending // 5 acquittals
-14 federal referrals // 73 guilty please // 21 dismissals // 19 declinations
-6 trials // 5 jury trials // 1 bench trial // 1 jury trial conviction
-0 petitions for a federal writ of Habeas Corpus
-51% incidents involved drugs or alcohol
-58% incidents involved children
-At least 73 defendants had criminal records
-125 domestic or dating cases
-34 protection order violations
-At least 33 sentenced to incarceration
-Longest incarceration of 3 years
-84 defendants account for 378 prior contacts with Tribal Police before their Tribe implemented VAWA SDVCJ
-51% defendants sent to batterer intervention or other rehabilitation programs
-Tribal Courts uphold rights of defendants and help with rehabilitation
SDVCJ Crimes NOT covered (key ones):
Sexual contact; Endangering welfare of a minor; Stalking; Violence Against Children (58% of incidents involved children, statute doesn’t protect children as is, until reauthorized and included in 2018 reauthorization); Violence Against Victim’s family and can’t prosecute crimes that involve drugs or alcohol
These facts are real. Actions need to be taken to protect our womxn and children. VAWA currently, is very limited with its protections but as I’ve stated before, it is a step in the right direction. There are some amazing womxn and men, who are deeply devoted in ending the violence and finding solutions that I have had the honor of working with, that are champions of this issue.
What Improvements are Needed?
Here are some improvements that were identified at a Hill briefing back in February 2017 as well as some statements coming from Tribal leaders implementing SDVCJ in their community and lawyers: Meeting with Congressional members is essential to gain support for issues including: 1) a more defined language of the law; 2) jurisdiction expansion; 3) protection of more victims (including children); 4) required documentation of implementation (data collection/reporting); 5) clarification of what a “relationship” is since “dating” can mean a lot of things in today’s society and under this law, it hasn’t protected every “relationship” because it wasn’t exactly what it was intended to mean; 6) access to full appropriated funds; 7) access to Crimes Victim Fund (CVF); 8) support appropriations language to ensure Tribal victims are not left out under the Secure Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act (SURVIVAL Act).
Tribes need the additional and proper resources to be able to implement this law to meet the needs of their Tribal victims. Funding of SDVCJ authorized under VAWA 2013 is at $5 million, but Congress has only appropriated $2.5 million for FY 2016. Full funding is needed for these protections.
What are the requests to ensure productive implementation?
More defined statutes on protecting children.
Expansion of jurisdiction to protect additional victims.
Need reporting or data collection to be covered under the law, as of now, it doesn’t require it, which Congress is always demanding evidence and best practices.
Broadened definition of “relationship.” As stated by Alfred Urbina (Pascua Yaqui Attorney General) and Oscar Flores (Pascua Yaqui Chief Prosecutor), the definition is old fashioned, outdated, and in today’s society, how do you define a relationship? It’s always changing and could mean a variety of things.
Crime Victims Fund (CVF): Indian Country is left out from programs that are funded through CVF. Supporting legislation or appropriation language that would allocate money to Tribal Nations.
Urging Congressional members to support language and efforts to include Tribes in CVF under the SURVIVE Act to Tribal victims are not left out.
Ability to charge perpetrators of other crimes committed.
Protection for same-sex couples: There was a case that was dismissed due to the jury stating that there wasn’t enough evidence; meanwhile, the defendant had warrants and a lengthy history. The Jury saw them as not a couple as defined by the law.
Need to ensure that under this law, it needs to stay non-competitive for when more Tribes begin implementation
What can government agencies do?
If there are discretionary funds, have the departments shift those funds to CVF.
10% each from Office of Justice Programs and CVF to Tribal governments and to Tribal criminal justice systems
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls:
Before I end this update on VAWA 2018 and SDVCJ, one more issue that matters most to me, and leaves me with so many questions, and worries of not only for my sisters, but myself: the growing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW / MMIWG) in Indian Country. I want to recognize also, that this is an issue for our relatives up North in Canada, First Nations peoples’, Inuit, and Metis. Down south, in Central and South America. For our aboriginal relatives down South and among many other Indigenous populations, that have long fell prey to colonization and systematic institutions put in place that created mechanisms to suppress and oppress those different and less fortunate. High rates of violence and homicide for our Indigenous Peoples’ occur and rarely ever makes the news.
Google the names: Savanna Greywind (found, passed on); Olivia LoneBear (found, passed on); Amanda Dakota Webster (at this moment of writing this blog, right here in this section, I was thinking of names to write, and a friend of mine just sent this to me, notifying me of another MMIW); Monica Wickre; Lakota Rae Renville; Sheena Between Lodges; Mona Lisa Two Eagle; Larissa Lone Hill (still missing); Mariah High Hawk; Christina Albertson; Pablita Stewart; Virginia Casey; Courtnie Johnson and many more. If you want to be updated on these efforts, want to support the Indigenous communities, and appreciate art, follow @mmiwwhoismissing on Instagram and donate to their efforts as they support and seek justice for the families.
Here are some troubling statistics for Indigenous womxn recently found in a study about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), for full study and findings, click here. The data was collected through methods of law enforcement records, social media, community and family accounts, media, and State and National databases.
506 cases identified with limited resources, so numbers are likely undercounted
66 of those 506 cases, were domestic and sexual violence
Youngest victim was a baby, less than a year old
Oldest victim was an 83 year old elder
71 urban cities, 29 states
5,712 cases of MMIWG in 2016 // ONLY 116 logged into Department of Justice database
3rd leading cause of death among AI/AN (American Indian/Alaska Native) women is murder
71% of AI/AN’s live in urban areas
128 were cases of MMIW
280 were murdered Indigenous women
98 cases were “unknown status”
29 is the median age of MMIWG victims
The Invisible 153: cases that UIHI identified that don’t exist in law enforcement records
This is a growing epidemic. Stolen sisters. Stolen children. So much heartache, no answers, no solutions, no protections, and very little action being done. I want to reiterate, VAWA and VAWA SDVCJ are stepping stones in the right direction in seeking justice and safety for victims of violence, and acknowledging and recognizing Tribal Sovereignty and jurisdiction, but it’s nowhere near enough. The brutal and violent murder of Savanna Greywind in 2016, a pregnant Native woman, got some lawmakers to make some moves and create legislation, but not without the pressure and passions coming from the Tribal communities and Savanna’s family. Her baby is alive and healthy, and will carry on Savanna’s memory, as she is the positive that came out of this horrific murder of an Indigenous sister.
Also, Indigenous womxn experience violence when fossil fuel extraction projects come near their communities, such as pipelines, due to “man camps.” These man camps are built along these pipeline routes and near Reserves (Canada) or Reservations, exposing Indigenous womxn and children to dangerous situations, that do happen more than you think.
In her memory, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and advocates, created legislation and introduced Savanna’s Act S. 1942 (H.R. 4485) on 10/5/2017. This is a Federal Bill to direct Attorney General (AG) to review, revise, and aimed at developing law enforcement and justice protocols needed to address missing and murdered Indigenous Peoples’. It will require the Department of Justice to update their online database entry format for federal databases relevant to cases of missing and murdered Indigenous Peoples’, to include the victim’s tribal enrollment information. Savanna’s Act will help expand Tribal access to federal crime databases and establish protocols for handling missing and murdered Native Americans with appropriate entities needing to track this data, as well as require annual reports on MMIW. The bill has five co-sponsors, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT); Sen. Al Franken (D-MN); Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM); Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The most recent action of this bill and news, was on November 14, 2018, where the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) has approved Savanna’s Act, sending to full Senate for approval and consideration. This is great news, from valiant and passionate efforts in raising awareness of this issue, for our Tribal communities and the families that are still seeking justice and finding healing.
There is more to discuss. More I could write. Talking and writing about these issues, are emotionally triggering. But I always prefer to have these discussions when possible and appreciate those who ask questions and want to learn more about VAWA, VAWA SDVCJ, and MMIW/G. This is an issue I think about daily. Especially with the things that have happened to me in my life. It’s changed my life in the sense of never being able to feel like I can let my guard down, which isn’t a fair way to live. In terms of demanding change for the better and seeking justice, it really is up to us, the people, to put pressure on our Representatives. We have to hold them accountable. They work for us, or at least that is how it should be. We need to have our voices heard, we need to vote, and we need to continue to fight for the best, for our future generations. The mid-terms have come and gone, but the 2020 elections are around the corner, and the names I mentioned above that voted against VAWA and voted for Kavanaugh (if they already haven’t been voted out in 2018), keep in mind these voting patterns.
I hope you aren’t too exhausted from this lengthy blog, but I hope you feel a little more knowledgeable on these issues and laws, as well as aware of what is going on. AMAZING and valiant efforts and heart from the organizations, Tribal leaders, advocates and lawmakers who have helped make sure VAWA has been authorized and made law. It still needs improvements, but as I have stated before, these are stepping stones in the right direction. There is still time to call your Representatives and tell them (by December 21, 2018): to make VAWA 2018 permanent or at the very least reauthorize; Tribal VAWA SDVCJ is working, should remain included as part of VAWA 2018 and expanded; and to support and pass Savanna’s Act. Your voice matters. Your support is appreciated. Lila wopila tanka (many thanks) for taking the time to read my blog. Keep on, keeping on. Much love, always.
Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related.