Native American women work toward domestic violence reform | Lane & Lane, LLC
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Native American women work toward domestic violence reform

Most New Jersey women know that when domestic violence becomes an issue within a marriage, a phone call to the police is normally a quick, effective solution to the problem at hand. However, Native American women living on tribal lands, under the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement, do not have the same right to make that call. While they can certainly report domestic violence crimes within their marriages, if they happen to be married to someone who is non-Native American, the crime cannot be prosecuted by tribal courts.

These women are living in a "catch-22" situation. Federal courts are authorized to prosecute these types of crimes but they tend to be marked as a low priority. Even though tribal police respond to domestic violence calls, they are not allowed to arrest the offender if they are not a Native American because of jurisdictional issues.

Thankfully, women involved in these situations are beginning to fight for more rights and protections against domestic violence. They want current regulations to become updated made current and for their cases to become expedited, because these types of cases often escalate to the point where their health may be in danger.

One particular woman who was a victim of domestic violence in her marriage recalls being abused almost as soon as she married. When she swiftly filed for divorce and a protective order, she was laughed at by her spouse who knew that he would not be prosecuted. Eventually, even after several calls to authorities, he showed up at her work with a gun and wounded a co-worker while attempting to shoot her. He was later absolved of most of his guilt by taking a plea bargain, which allowed him to plead guilty to a much less serious traffic offense.

Native American women living on tribal land believe that the federal Violence Against Women Act is one of the best chances they have to secure more rights additional protection against domestic abuse. However, the act is being held up in the U.S. House of Representatives due to disagreements on provisions in the bill. Once the act is passed, they are hopeful they will have the ability to prosecute non-Indian spouses guilty of domestic violence, so they are able to live safely and move on with their lives.

Source: Huffington Post, "Native American women seek protections from abuse," Suzanne Gamboa, May 15, 2012

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