Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Believe it: The long-stalled Violence Against Women Act

There's a great photo my sister showed me recently of an elderly woman at a rally on women's rights with a sign - "I cannot believe I still have to protest this s--t."

I've seen versions of this at different rallys, but I think the elderly woman fighting the same fight for so long hit both the higher humor note, and the "No kidding!" reflex.

The Violence Against Women Act has been re-introduced WITH the Native American women provisions in the draft that sputtered to nothing with the last congress. While I'm glad this is getting re-introduced, I have some sympathy for the elderly woman with the sign. Why is this even being debated? Surely this is a no-brainer.

For Alaska Native and American Indian women, domestic violence can be especially tricky to catch and prosecute. The White House has a fairly succinct summary of the problem:

With non-Indians constituting more than 76 percent of the overall population living on reservations and other Indian lands, interracial dating and marriage are common, and many of the abusers of Native American women are non-Indian men. Too often, non-Indian men who batter their Indian wives and girlfriends go unpunished because tribes cannot prosecute non-Indians, even if the offender lives on the reservation and is married to a tribal member, and because Federal law‐enforcement resources are hours away from reservations and stretched thin.

This is just one of many problems, but a pretty serious one, and a problem this version of the act addresses. With Native women being outrageously over-represented in the area of domestic violence, it's of utmost importance that we not only get the actual support and legislation to address it, but a signal from our national leaders that they see this population of women who are too often ignored.

Besides Native women, this act would address violence against LGBT and immigrant victims, as well as issues in the backlog of untested rape kits. Many groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, are encouraging citizens to call Speaker Boehner's and House Majority Leader Cantor's office immediately to make sure they know the importance of passing this. And while you're at it, make sure you drop your state's representatives to let them know how their constituents expect them to vote.

There's more than enough evidence these are issues that need more resources and attention, more than enough proof they are not getting enough of either, and more women than ever being abused, raped and killed while this act was let to expire.   I can't believe we still have to protest this, but since we do, let's get it done.

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