Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Karol. I’m thrilled to be in Oregon with my colleagues - two extraordinary leaders at the Department of Justice –Karol Mason and Ron Davis. And I echo Karol’s sentiment – It is truly an honor to join the leaders of the many Indian nations of the northwest.
As Karol mentioned, the Justice Department is fully committed to supporting tribal communities in strengthening the tribal criminal justice system’s response to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. And each year, the Office on Violence Against Women reaffirms this commitment by providing necessary funding to interrupt the cycle of violence that is all too prevalent in Indian County. I am particularly excited to be here following the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. As you know, VAWA now includes historic new provisions that give jurisdiction BACK to tribes over cases of domestic violence involving non-Indian perpetrators—something that was long overdue and that makes me particularly proud to be working at OVW at this time.
The task facing us all right now is very serious. Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data on the prevalence of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence in the United States. Sadly this new report confirmed what we already knew to be true –o what you all know from your lives in Indian Country -- that American Indian and Alaska Native women experience stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault far more often than other groups of women.
More than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes.
A quarter of American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced stalking during their lifetimes.
More than a quarter of American Indian and Alaska Native women were raped during their lifetimes.
And an estimated 55% of American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes.
These statistics are staggering. But we know from our work across Indian Country and elsewhere, that there is much we can do to stop the cycle of violence against women. We know that the key to avoiding more serious and deadly violence in the future is to intervene early to stop violence from escalating. We know that support for victims is paramount. We know that early intervention saves women’s lives and protects children from growing up in a home where violence is the norm.
We know that American Indian and Alaska Native women have long been subject to violence, stalking, and rape—with little legal recourse to bring their perpetrators to justice.
But things are changing for the better and we now have reason to hope.
When President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, it marked a momentous step in expanding tribal sovereignty by addressing a jurisdictional gap that for too long has thwarted a tribe’s ability to protect its people, primarily its women, from non-Indian perpetrators.
Under the new "special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction" tribes are able to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence both Indians AND non-Indians who assault Indian spouses or dating partners or violate a protection order in Indian country. VAWA 2013 also clarifies tribes' sovereign power to issue and enforce civil protection orders against Indians AND non-Indians.
As you all know, in February of this year, Attorney General Holder announced that three tribes would be the first in the nation to exercise the special criminal jurisdiction under a pilot project -- and two of those tribes are part of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians -- the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and, of course, right here at the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon.
We have reason to hope because the partnership between tribal governments and the federal government has never been stronger.
We have reason to hope because we have a shared vision of the future where all tribes thrive as prosperous, vibrant, and safe communities for everyone.
Since 1998, OVW has made over 1150 awards to tribes and tribal organizations totaling over $491 million. And, through the Department of Justice's Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation for this fiscal year, OVW’s Tribal Governments Program will support 54 tribes for a total of more than $31 million. And this includes 12 tribes of the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians.
With this funding tribal governments - as sovereign nations - are developing and implementing government-based strategies to reduce violence and increase safety for American Indian and Alaska Native women.
Tribes are enhancing responses to victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
Through funding from the Office on Violence Against Women, tribal government grantees are providing education and awareness campaigns about domestic and sexual violence to thousands of tribal residents across the country.
Tribes are providing emergency shelter, transitional housing, support services, and financial assistance to victims.
Tribes are providing legal assistance so that survivors can seek justice.
And tribes are enhancing the tribal criminal justice responses to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women by using OVW funds for law enforcement and prosecution. These funds are helping to increase the arrest and prosecution of domestic and sexual violence on tribal lands --increasing safety for all tribal members.
The impact tribal leaders and tribal governments have in the lives of victims, survivors, their children, and the community as a whole is undeniable. And the Department of Justice and the Office on Violence Against Women renews its resolve to use every tool we can to work in partnership with each of you and tribal governments all across the nation to reduce the rates of violence against women in Indian Country and to increase safety from domestic and sexual violence.
All of our work together so far has been achieved befre VAWA 2013’s Special Criminal Jurisdiction has gone into effect across Indian Country.
We will continue to work with you to expand the number of tribes exercising criminal jurisdiction to stop domestic violence on tribal lands.
We will continue to work with you to decrease the number of American Indian and Alaska Native women who fall victim to violence.
We will continue to work with you to strengthen the capacity of tribal governments to respond to violent crimes.
We will continue to work with you to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their behavior.
And, we will continue to work with you to help provide safety for survivors.
The safety of American Indian women is one of my office’s main priorities and a clear priority of the Administration.
It’s important that we all work together to bring about systematic, positive changes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
Which is why I encourage each of you to participate in the 9th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation in Rapid City, South Dakota next month - on October 15th. The annual consultation provides the federal government the opportunity to hear from tribal leaders on what is working in Indian Country, and to solicit recommendations from you on administering tribal funds and programs, enhancing the safety of Indian women from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking, and strengthening the federal response to such violent crimes.
As Karol mentioned there will be additional training and consultation sessions on October 14 and 16. These session will cover topics including Tribal Access to Federal Criminal Databases and Information Sharing, the CTAS solicitation, tribal judicial systems and corrections, and concerns of youth. Additional information about this year’s consultation, including registration and logistical information is available on OVW’s website, as well as www.OVWConsultation.org. As in year’s past consultations we will be joined by our colleagues from the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services at this year’s consultation.
I cannot stress enough the importance of your participation and feedback as we strive to enhance the scope and reach of our grant programs.
I look forward to seeing you all there and to working with you to continue our efforts to end violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. Thank you for the work you all do to keep your communities safe and thank you for taking the time to be in Pendleton this week.
I’m now very pleased to introduce my colleague, Director Ron Davis of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Ron . . .