Sens. Franken, Murkowski Make Bipartisan Push to Bring Justice to Native Survivors of Sexual Violence

Published October 20, 2017

New Legislation Would Help Tribes Pursue Justice When Sexual Violence, Trafficking, and Stalking Crimes Perpetrated by Non-Indian Offenders

Sen. Al Franken

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced a bipartisan effort to help bring justice to Native survivors of sexual violence.

According to the National Institute of Justice, more than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women—and more than one in four men—have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and among those who have experienced sexual violence, nearly all have been victimized by a non-Indian. But as it stands now, if you are a member of a tribe, living in Indian Country, and a non-Indian commits these crimes against you, your ability to seek justice in the courts is severely limited. The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act would allow tribes to pursue recourse when sexual violence, trafficking, and stalking crimes are committed against native women and men.

“An alarming number of American Indians face sexual violence in their lifetime, and it’s frequently at the hands of non-Indians,” said Sen. Franken, a member of the Indian Affairs Committee. “But because tribes lack jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders, criminals often go unprosecuted, unpunished, and are free to commit more crimes. This is an epidemic that must be addressed, and one of the most important steps we can take is to give tribes more power to hold offenders accountable for these heinous acts. Our commonsense, bipartisan legislation will help tribes address sexual violence in their communities in a meaningful way, and needs to be passed into law.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

“Through the 2013 Violence Against Women Act, Congress granted the tribes limited authority to prosecute those who commit crimes of violence in Indian Country,” said Sen. Murkowski. “The evidence suggests that tribes are using these authorities responsibly and with great respect for the due process interests of offenders. But the 2013 legislation left significant gaps in the types of crimes that can be prosecuted. Those limitations stand as an obstruction to prosecute those who violently abuse our Native women. This legislation is a strong start at filling those gaps. It is my sincere hope enactment of this legislation will make Indian Country safer for our Native women who have suffered unconscionable rates of abuse and violence.”

“The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act is an essential step in addressing the devastating problem of sexual violence victimization of Native people, and a key priority for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence,” said Terri Poore, Policy Director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “Tribes must have sovereignty to hold all offenders on their lands accountable.”

“Native victims of sexual violence have been forgotten and ignored for too long. This legislation is an important step toward changing that, and we are grateful for Senator Franken and Senator Murkowski’s work to ensure that tribal governments have the authority and resources they need to address the devastating rates of sexual and domestic violence against Native women,” said Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director at the National Congress of American Indians.

The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, which is also cosponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N. Mex), is endorsed by the following organizations:

•           Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Violence

•           Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

•           Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center

•           Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition

•           National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

•           National Congress of American Indians

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