Federal and tribal officials joined together in Tulsa, Okla., today in commemorating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month at opening ceremonies before the department’s annual tribal consultation on Violence Against Native Women, held this year in Tulsa.
Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Bea Hanson joined the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Danny C. Williams Sr., and more than 200 tribal leaders, public safety and health officials to reaffirm a shared commitment to reduce and end violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women, which has reached epidemic proportions.
Participants viewed a new training DVD entitled “Using Federal Law to Prosecute Domestic Violence Crimes in Indian County”. The new training video, funded through a grant from the Justice Department’s Office on Victims of Crime and developed by the Office on Legal Education and the National Indian Country Training Program, is designed to highlight all tools available to federal and tribal law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim specialists to address domestic violence crimes.
The training DVD is now publicly available for those with a specific training or public education purpose. The DVD can be obtained by contacting the National Indian Country Training Coordinator Leslie Hagen at Leslie.Hagen3@usdoj.gov .
“In this video, we hear incredible stories of suffering and survival from victims, and we explore the tools that law enforcement can use to keep victims safe and hold domestic violence perpetrators fully accountable under federal law,” said OVW Acting Director Hanson. “As we mark October as domestic violence awareness month, we re-commit ourselves to using every available tool we can to work in partnership with tribal governments to address the deplorable rates of violence against women in Indian country. We ask for all of your help to make the approaches detailed in this video as widely known and utilized as possible.”
The video uses case studies and play by play accounts from tribal police, federal prosecutors, judges, victims, and victim specialists, to show a comprehensive approach to obtaining justice for victims, including the use of relatively new federal laws. One of these laws is the Domestic Assault by an Habitual Offender (18 USC, Section 117), which punishes any person who commits a domestic assault and has two prior federal, state, or tribal convictions with up to five years in federal prison. The law was created with the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization in 2005. It was used to convict and sentence Roman Cavanaugh, a Fort Totten, N.D., man who had several previous convictions in tribal court for domestic violence. Cavanaugh was sentenced by a federal judge on Sep. 17, 2012, to five years in prison as a habitual domestic violence offender.
The video also explores several other federal statutes, and also includes discussion of changes ushered in by the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, which has made it possible for tribal courts to sentence a person to up to three years for a single offense provided certain due process protections are in place.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time to reflect on tremendous achievements made since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 18 years ago, while reminding ourselves that much is still to be done to ensure that our children and grandchildren grow up in an America free of domestic violence.
Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI data show that, between the time VAWA was first enacted in 1994 and 2010, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped by 67 percent nationwide. Between 1993 and 2007, the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner declined 35 percent for women and 46 percent for men.
Rates of domestic violence against Native women in Indian country are now among the highest in the entire United States. Half of all Native American women -- 46 percent -- have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, according to a recent nationwide survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.