The Justice Department reports that one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime and that Native American women suffer from violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average. Yet critics say S. 1925 violates the Constitution by giving tribal courts the authority to punish non-Native Americans for committing domestic violence on tribal lands. In fact, S. 1925 requires that any tribal court exercising jurisdiction over non-Native Americans must show that it offers similar constitutional protections afforded to defendants in state criminal courts.
The passage of S. 1925 sends a strong message to victims throughout the country whose lives have been forever changed: We will never return to the pre-VAWA world where there was no help and no hope. A vote for the Leahy-Crapo reauthorization bill says unequivocally to all victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, “We will help you wherever you are and whenever you need help.”
Patricia Martin is president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Lori Weinstein is executive director of Jewish Women International.