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Efforts Stalled To Renew A Law Reducing Violence Against Native Women

National Indigenous Women's Resource Center

The 2013 Violence Against Women Act is due for a reauthorization by Congress so it can be funded to continue lifesaving services for shelter programs and coalitions nationwide, especially on reservations. A recent bill that would have done so only received Democratic votes and is now stalled. But Republicans did step in at the last minute to keep the act funded by including it in an appropriations bill called the Continuing Resolution or CR.

Caroline LaPorte is a policy advisor for the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. She said the CR is not a permanent fix because it will lapse in early December. She said delaying until after the midterm election feels like a political maneuver.

"I think violence against women is, should be a bipartisan issue, right?" said LaPorte. "It definitely shouldn't be something that we draw party lines on."

The 2013 Violence Against Women Act gave tribes more authority to prosecute domestic violence crimes, including those committed by non-Natives. But LaPorte said there are several gaps that continue to limit tribal authority. She said the Democratic bill would allow tribal courts to prosecute violence against children, as well as attacks by strangers, and she said it would be good to see that bill move forward after the election.

"There's a lot of momentum right now," said LaPorte, "just with everything that's going on with the #MeToo movement and with women mobilizing on these issues. I think if people can just sort of continue to do that, we can have a re-authorization with meaningful provisions for Native women."

LaPorte said it's critical to reauthorize the act since one in four Native women experiences sexual violence in her lifetime, twice as likely as women in any other ethnic group.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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