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Violence Against Women Act: A Gap in Protection for Children


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization of 2013 was supposed to represent a pivotal moment for American Indian tribes throughout the United States, greatly extending tribal jurisdiction to encompass more than it had in previous decades. The reauthorization would finally allow for legal proceedings to be prosecuted by tribal courts on Indian land, also against non-Indian offenders. However, the reauthorization appears to limit a tribe’s ability to protect American Indian women from violence by strangers, as well as the protection of American Indian children against physical abuse and exposure to domestic violence. Furthermore, it limits a tribe’s ability to hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable. This paper focuses on the recommended amendments to improve the protection of American Indian children and expand the prosecutorial powers to hold perpetrators accountable when American Indian children become victims of domestic violence. A new piece of legislation that is currently being discussed is the Native Child Protection Initiative (NCPI), for which the use of both explicit and inclusive language is imperative for the protection of Native children and the safety and future of tribal communities. Another possible recommendation for the VAWA that is supported at a national level asks for the mandatory implementation of Coordinated Community Response Teams for tribal communities to help protect victims of domestic violence and hold offenders accountable.

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Our special thanks to The Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, its faculty & staff