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Acting Director Bea Hanson Delivers Remarks at the Eighth Annual Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation


United States

Good Morning. I would like to welcome each of you to Washington, DC for the Eight Annual Violence Against Women Government-to-Government Consultation. I am grateful for the opportunity to personally greet and thank you for travelling to DC to join us.  

As you all know we originally scheduled the tribal consultation for October 31 in Bismarck, ND but due to the partial government shutdown the Department was forced to reschedule.  I know this shutdown impacted, and may still be impacting, your tribes so I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your participation today and your continued leadership.

I want to start by applauding each and every one of you for your leadership, commitment and hard work to make the impossible a reality – the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which recognizes tribal sovereignty and addresses a jurisdictional gap that has long thwarted your ability to protect your people, and primarily your women, from non-Indian perpetrators.

The safety of American Indian women is one of my main priorities and a clear priority of the Administration.  It’s important that we work together to bring about systematic, positive changes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. We could not undertake this task without your help and guidance. 

I am privileged to work in an Administration that has such a strong commitment to ending violence against Native women. The Department of Justice continues to strengthen the criminal justice response to violence against women through its implementation of the Violence Against Women Act and its reauthorizations.

Currently, 158 tribes receive funding from OVW’s Grants to Tribal Governments program with active grants totaling more than $130 million. These grants help tribal governments launch, sustain, and strengthen activities related to combating violence against women.

As we look toward the future it’s important to remember that the substantial progress we have made has not been inevitable. The progress has resulted from the work of committed advocates, policymakers, law enforcement officers, and brave survivors who tirelessly fight to combat violence against women in our communities.

I want to take a moment now to highlight a few of the Department of Justice’s efforts since we met last October in Tulsa, OK and encourage you to read the full written report on the Department’s efforts that we have provided you.

The Justice Department continues to implement the tribal provisions in VAWA 2005 and is working to implement the new and enhanced tribal provisions in VAWA 2013.  As you know, VAWA authorizes three grant programs that are specifically designed for tribal communities, Grants to Tribal Governments Program, Tribal Sexual Assault Services Program, and the Tribal Coalitions Program.  OVW is committed to ensuring these funds are distributed each year to help combat violence against Native women.

OVW provided funding to the Southwest Center for Law and Policy and the National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault for the establishment of a national clearinghouse for information and resources on the sexual assault of Native women.  And I am proud to announce that they recently launched its website, and I encourage everyone to visit the website.

In response to a number of calls from grantees in Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana about an increase in reported crimes and requests for crisis intervention services for domestic violence and sexual assault in that area, on January 31, 2013, OVW convened a conference call with local tribal and non-tribal sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions to understand the impact in this region.  OVW is working with the White House and other federal agencies on a coordinated response to the emerging issues in the Bakken region in North Dakota in response to the population boom in the area.

In 2012, OVW launched a special project to cross designate tribal prosecutors to be able to prosecute cases of domestic violence in federal court.  In this pilot project, we are funding four Special Assistant US Attorneys in the Districts of Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, and North and South Dakota.  I would like to recognize Tim Purdon, US Attorney for the District of North Dakota, who is with us today and thank him for his exceptional collaboration on this project with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In July 2010, the Executive Office for US Attorneys launched the National Indian Country Training Initiative. In January 2013, the training initiative partnered with the National Strangulation Training Institute to deliver the first-ever national Indian country training on the investigation and prosecution of non-fatal strangulation and suffocation offenses.

In July 2011, the Department of Justice proposed legislation to significantly improve the safety of Native women and allow federal and tribal law enforcement agencies to hold more perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their crimes and this past year Congress passed this as part of VAWA 2013. 

I would also like to give you a brief update on the federal advisory committee on the development of a research program to study violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.  This committee was chartered in March, 2008.  Members of this advisory committee are members of tribes from across the country and have an extensive and diverse understanding of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and murder committed against American Indian and Alaska Native women and the effective responses to these crimes.

We value and appreciate their advice during the ongoing development and future implementation of the National Institute of Justice’s program of research.   With the advice of the advisory committee NIJ has completed its Violence Against Women in Indian Country Pilot Study, which has laid the groundwork for the National Baseline Study that NIJ will be directing over the next four years.  As that Baseline Study continues, we expect that the advisory committee will continue to be an invaluable resource for NIJ.

It is our goal to schedule a meeting in late Spring or early Summer of 2014.  I have contacted the nominating organizations of current Task Force members and extended an invitation for these members to continue to serve until August 2014.   In the meantime, we will begin the process of soliciting nominations for new members and I encourage you to begin to consider possible candidates. 

The purpose of this government-to-government consultation today is for you to have the opportunity to tell the Department of Justice and our colleagues from the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Interior what it on your minds – what your tribes need, what we could do better, anything at all.

If you so choose, there are some issues on my mind where OVW needs your input.  We circulated framing papers about these issues, and I want to highlight four of them.

At last year’s consultation, we asked for your views whether OVW should award our Grants to Tribal Governments Program by formula.  We think this issue has fresh urgency in light of the Tribal Law and Order Commission’s newly issued report, which recommends that all DOJ tribal funding be awarded based on a formula.  Therefore, once again, we’d like your feedback on the idea of distributing Tribal Governments grants by formula and what that formula might look like.

The Tribal Governments Program is OVW’s primary funding source for Tribal Governments.  Since the program was implemented in FY 2007, OVW has awarded funding on a competitive, discretionary basis.  OVW is interested in exploring with tribal governments whether OVW should adopt a formula distribution model beginning in FY 2015.

At this time, OVW has not decided whether the Tribal Governments grant program should remain discretionary or transfer to a formula distribution, but is looking for guidance from tribal representatives.  Our plan is to have further conversations with Tribal Leaders with the goal of making a final determination with any changes going into effect for grants in Fiscal Year 2015.

The second topic I would like to highlight is the tribal protection order registry.  VAWA 2005 provided for the creation of a tribal registry or registries.  This provision was designed to provide tribal governments with the ability to have timely access to accurate data related to individuals who are the subject of a criminal or civil protection order issued by tribal courts.  We know Tribes need the ability to share information with other tribal and non-tribal law enforcement agencies in order to help protect Native women from violence. 

In 2012 OVW released a solicitation to establish a National Tribal Order of Protection Registry.  OVW received two applications, but neither proposed viable projects.  As such, OVW decided not to fund either application.

OVW and the Department have struggled in getting this funding out.  We want to be transparent about this process as we move forward.  Your input, as tribal leaders, is essential to this conversation we want to have with you today.

OVW’s STOP Formula Grant Program is OVW’s largest funding stream.  It provides funding to states to improve their criminal justice response and develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women.  Although tribes are not directly eligible for the funding, they can be provided funds through a state as a subgrantee.

VAWA 2013 made numerous significant changes to the STOP statute, two of which may be significant to tribes.  First, states now must consult with tribal governments in their states in deciding how to implement the program.  Second, the formula on which STOP funding is based was changed and now tribal populations are included in each state’s population.

We are looking for your input on what it means for a state to consult with tribes, both with whom they should consult and how they should consult.  Equally important is how states should recognize and meaningfully respond to the needs of underserved populations and ensure that culturally specific services and activities receive equitable distribution.

OVW will also be hosting a listening session on this topic as part of the STOP Regulation process. Please look for an email inviting your participation. 

The final topic is would like to highlight is the Tribal Sexual Assault Services Program.  In previous years Tribal SASP applicants have applied through the CTAS process and OVW found that the majority of applications included activities that were not allowable under Tribal SASP. OVW is considering one solicitation that would request applications for both Tribal SASP and Sexual Assault Services Culturally Specific Program.  This would allow OVW to clearly highlight sexual assault and service provision while providing clear guidance to tribes on the application process and the purpose of Tribal SASP. This would also permit OVW – for the first time – to implement a part of the Tribal SASP statute that permits us to make Tribal SASP awards directly to tribal nonprofits.

It is our hope that removing Tribal SASP from CTAS and issuing a consolidated solicitation would assist tribal communities in submitting applications that meet the direct needs of tribal programs and sexual assault survivors. 

Before I close, I’d like pass along an invitation to an upcoming event hosted by the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.  On November 25, in commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the State Department is holding a panel discussion highlighting the linkages between intimate partner violence in the U.S. and internationally, with a focus on marginalized or indigenous women.  I am pleased that Juana Majel Dixon is participating and will be focusing on efforts to address violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. 

I want to thank you again for your participation in today’s consultation. Your leadership and commitment to serving your community is needed now more than ever.  The Department will continue to work with you to decrease the numbers of Native American women who fall victim to violence; to strengthen the capacity of tribal governments to respond to violent crimes; and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.

Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014