On Thursday, following a heated debate on the House floor, lawmakers passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans had held up the law for more than a year over provisions designed to protect undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, and members of the LGBT community. In a separate, earlier vote, the House rejected an alternative, stripped-down VAWA pushed by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, instead embracing the bipartisan version of the bill the Senate passed last week.
The Senate version of the bill, however, was itself a modified version of Democrats’ original bill, passed after Democrats acquiesced to Republican objections and removed a section that would have made more visas available to undocumented victims of domestic violence who help law enforcement prosecute their abusers. But the Senate’s compromise bill wasn’t good enough for the House Republican leadership, who introduced an alternate version that removed protections for members of the LGBT community and made it harder for tribal courts to prosecute non-Indian abusers.
Rights groups panned the House GOP leadership’s version of the bill and pushed the House to approve the Senate version. For reasons that are still unclear, the House Republican leadership went ahead and allowed lawmakers to vote on both the Republican alternative and the bipartisan Senate version of the bill. The Associated Press reported that a letter from several Republican lawmakers to the House GOP leadership may have convinced the leadership they didn’t have the votes to block the VAWA reauthorization again. The letter urged the Republican leadership to pass an inclusive version of VAWA that would “reach all victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in every community in the country.”
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, argues that Republicans came back from the November elections knowing they would have to move on VAWA. “Elections matter,” O’Neill says. “What happened between the 112th and the 113th Congress is that everybody in the country became sharply aware that the Republican Party has a problem with the issue of rape.”
The House GOP unveiled their watered-down version of the Violence Against Women Act today, prompting an immediate and vocal reaction from the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the author of VAWA, derided the legislation as “partisan” and said it omits critical measures designed to protect vulnerable populations like Native Americans, immigrants and the gay and lesbian community.
“Next week, the House of Representatives plans to revert back to its partisan version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Republican House leadership has decided to replace the Senate-passed version with a substitute that will not provide critical protections for rape victims, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims, students on campuses, or stalking victims. This is simply unacceptable and it further demonstrates that Republicans in the House have not heard the message sent by the American people and reflected in the Senate’s overwhelming vote earlier this month to pass the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill. A majority of Republican Senators — and every woman serving in the United States Senate — supported it.”
I would act surprised and/or outraged by this, but I’m not. The GOP’s war on women continues unabated.
What’s most amazing to me is that the House GOP strip out the protections for human trafficking victims. To give you an idea of just how deranged that is, consider that the very same protections passed in the Senate with a rare 100-0 vote.
Navajo singer Radmilla Cody has been nominated for her first Grammy. She will likely turn heads at the ceremony Feb. 10 in Los Angeles in her traditional Navajo dress and moccasins. But the former Miss Navajo has never been afraid to stand out in a crowd.
Cody’s grandmother raised her on the Navajo Nation amidst the rust-colored plateaus and sagebrush.
Growing up half African-American on the reservation, even her relatives called her names.
“My uncles were not too fond of having a biracial child in the family,” Cody said. “They would make it known that was how they felt by basically belittling me, demeaning me.”
Years later when she ran for Miss Navajo Nation some tribal members protested because of her dark skin. Because of her own struggles with racism, Cody is working with educators to replace a derogatory Navajo word for African-American people with a more respectful one.
Cody also works to empower victims of domestic violence. A survivor of an abusive relationship herself, she speaks out about reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
Read the whole thing, see more photos, and listen to her beautiful voice at this link: Former Miss Navajo Rides Rough Road to Grammys
Radmilla Cody has her own website as well, here.
Najaway, a Navajo woman, survived 20 years of domestic violence at the hands of two husbands—one Native, one non-Native. Now in her early 50s, she still can’t get the nightmare out of her head.
“I remember my daughter looking at me after I was beat down and covered with bruises, saying, ‘Mom, you should go away and not come back, because Dad might kill you,’” Najaway recalls. “She was all of six years of age.”
And she is one of the lucky ones. In some communities, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average. Nearly half of all Native women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, according to federal crime and health data.
Still, there is hope. In places where justice cannot reach, survivors are coming out of the shadows to tell their stories, reliving the pain in order to help others avoid similar suffering. Over the past two months, SFR interviewed six Native people—five women and one man—each of whose life has been touched by domestic violence. Individually and together, they’re working to build a long-term solution that heals past abuses, restores traditional practices and funds community programs and services.
It is, at the very least, a start.
The same author published a related story in another venue, radio station KUNM. In this one, she writes about the Violence Against Women Act.
A 1978 Supreme Court decision ruled that tribes can’t prosecute non-natives who commit criminal acts on their lands. Arthur Michaels is a tribal prosecutor in Espanola. He says the court ruling is just wrong. “It’s abhorrent and it’s injustice not to have non-Indians prosecuted on Indian lands when they commit the crime on Indian lands.”
Michaels says that this ruling keeps tribal communities from obtaining justice. He explains that when a non-native abuses or kills a native woman, the case goes to federal agencies like the FBI, and this could take up to two years to prosecute. “First, they have to determine if you did it. They have to determine if it’s a misdemeanor or a felony; then they have big case loads. So, justice is not done, justice delayed is justice denied.”
This past year, tribes fought to get their power to prosecute non-natives back through a provision in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The bill stalled last year because of continued concerns about the non-native defendant’s civil rights. But, advocates say these concerns are unfounded, because the proposed law protects their rights, like the right to a public defender The bill also provides funding for domestic violence services.
There’s audio at this link, and the same video is at both the Santa Fe Reporter and KUNM. There are also more photos at each link. I assume the author is the photographer as well. Photo credits are not given.