Violence Against Women Act Dies In Congress

January 03, 2013

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Congressional Republicans allowed the 18-year-old Violence Against Women Act to die Wednesday without a vote. At issue were expanded protections for American Indian women, undocumented women and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.

The act has passed for years without debate. And in April the U.S. Senate passed a new version with added protections for groups with high rates of abuse.

The U.S. House came to an impasse over whether to allow tribes the jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native abusers.

Arizona Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Schneider says VAWA, as it’s called, has been a useful tool.

"It would’ve allowed them to prosecute non-tribal members who committed crimes of violence or crimes that fit under VAWA, it would’ve allowed them to prosecute them in tribal court," Schneider said.

Tribes said that’s important because national surveys show assaults on women living in Indian Country far surpass other groups. One in three American Indian women will be raped in her lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice. And most of those perpetrators are non-Native.

Jaqueline Pata directs the National Congress of American Indians. She spoke on C-Span.

"In our tribal court system we cannot prosecute a non-Native, which means those non-Native perpetrators -- those 89 percent non-Native perpetrators -- can continue to violate and violate," Pata said.

According to the Huffington Post, House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor was willing to discuss solutions to violence against American Indian women, as long as it didn’t give tribes expanded jurisdiction.