A guest editorial By Alaina Beautiful Bald Eagle, Editor of the West River Eagle
It has been 167 days since H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 was passed by the U.S. House of Representative with bipartisan support. Self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has since refused to introduce the bill to the Senate floor for vote, one of over 150 bills that have been in peril in what has been dubbed McConnell’s legislative graveyard.
Opponents of the bill include the National Rifle Association, the largest gun lobby, that opposes a new provision aimed at decreasing violence against women by expanding law enforcement’s ability to strip convicted domestic abusers of their firearms.
In a New York Times article published on April 1, 2019, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes, “The measure closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by barring those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a dating partner or those subject to a court restraining order from buying or owning firearms.”
Before 1994, domestic violence cases were regarded as a family matter and “police officers were also generally discouraged from intervening in domestic violence cases,” states a Sept. 13 report from Time magazine.
Today, many experts credit VAWA with contributing to a dramatic decrease in the rate of domestic violence in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the overall rate of intimate-partner violence dropped 64 percent from 1993 to 2010.
On the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Act, many organizations and tribal leaders commemorated the legislation and demanded the Republican-controlled Senate to pass H.R 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.
Earlier this year, the National Congress of American Indians praised H.R. 1585 for its expanded safety measures for Native American victims by building on a provision included in the Violence Against Women Act 2013, which created framework for tribal governments to prosecute non-Indians offenders for domestic and dating violence and criminal violations of protection orders.
The new legislation “would add child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, obstruction of justice and assaults against law enforcement officers to the crimes that tribes can prosecute against non-Indians,” states a press release from NCAI.
On Friday, Sept.13, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, urged for a Senate vote of the bill telling the committee, “The crisis rates of violence against Native women in particular demand our full attention and immediate action. Native women and families deserve to be safe in their homes and in their communities – full stop.”
CRST Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier, attended the VAWA and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women rally on Thursday, Sept. 12, that was held on the Capitol Grounds. Although he did not speak at the rally, he later addressed the need to pass H.R. 1585.
“This Act has done two things – it has put a spotlight on the silent war that our women have had to fight, and it has documented a steep decline in domestic violence for which this act was designed to do. It is a shame that partisan politics in the United States is resulting in the inability of tribal nations to continue to protect our women against the depredations of non-members.”
Powerful lobbyists and partisan politics should not stand in the way of the passage of this important legislation.