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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Editorial: There are answers to VAWA law

  • The Violence Against Women Act remains unresolved in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

    The act, designed to protect women against various crimes, has been in existence since 1994.

    However, the act expired on Jan. 1 because Congress did not renew the legislation.
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  • The Violence Against Women Act remains unresolved in the halls of the U.S. Congress.
    The act, designed to protect women against various crimes, has been in existence since 1994.
    However, the act expired on Jan. 1 because Congress did not renew the legislation.
    One of the main reasons the U.S. House of Representatives did not pass the act has to do with violence against women on Indian reservations. It's an obscure situation of which many people are simply unaware.
    The problem has to do with jurisdiction on tribal lands.
    Under current law, non-native people who commit acts against Native Americans are subject to prosecution only by the federal government.
    That is a fact hardly anyone is talking about in the national discussion.
    Most people are saying that if a non-native person commits a violent act, there is no method to prosecute and they simply can get away with the crime.
    That is false.
    What current law actually states is the cases fall under federal jurisdiction. What that means is those cases fall into the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and offices of U.S. Attorneys across the country.
    That's where the problem arises.
    Federal prosecutors rarely take on cases like assault or even rape.
    This is not right but that's how the system works. In many cases, prosecutors and FBI agents say they are too busy handling "major" crimes like murder and drug rings.
    That may be the case, but what happens is victims of assault fall through the cracks and the cases go untouched.
    It's an interesting dichotomy on reservations because jurisdictional issues become muddled.
    In many cases, not only are there tribal police and courts, but there are county and city jurisdictions as well as federal jurisdiction. It makes for a mess when it comes to prosecution.
    It is somewhat understandable why some believe tribal courts should not have jurisdiction over non-tribal members. As sovereign nations, Indian tribes deal within their own ranks. Dealing outside of those ranks is not as cut and dried in federal law.
    The real issue here is the lack of manpower, and effort, from the federal government to make sure crimes are punished to the fullest extent of the law.
    For years and years, the federal government has supported people on reservations, but it has generally been a failure. Throwing money at problems like alcoholism and corruption generally makes the system worse.
    But in this case, money is the answer when it comes to having enough people to prosecute crimes — especially violent crimes against women.
    Page 2 of 2 - The only real solution to this is to have a sufficient amount of federal agents on Indian lands so these crimes can be handled in a timely and proper manner.
    The sad part about this entire situation is how many other people are being hurt by this law not being renewed — and they have no connection to crimes on Indian reservations.
    Women around the country are being subjected to antiquated rules and they are at risk.
    All because the federal government cannot provide the necessary resources to protect Native Americans who reside on reservations.
    This is simply an unacceptable situation. Human beings are now at risk all thanks to inaction on the part of the government.
    There are some simple solutions to this problem but nobody wants to address the real needs. More federal agents are needed on reservations. It is that simple.
    Yet nobody is talking about that and, instead, you get partisan bickering and no action by Congress.
    That should not surprise anyone, given the track record recently in Congress.
    But you can't ignore the fact women are being put into danger because of that inaction.
    It is simply unacceptable.
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