Opinion

Brian Paterson: Indian women need protections from violence





"I have been taught that “no nation is truly defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” Native women have strong hearts, but that strength is constantly challenged by the high rates of domestic violence on many Indian reservations. Of course, domestic violence is not limited to women and it is not limited to adults. It has an effect that passes down through the generations. We all dream that our children can live and grow up in a safe place, with loving adults. From such a foundation, our children will create safe and healthy families of their own, free from the scourge of domestic violence. It is well known that domestic violence is a behavior that starts at one level and often escalates over time to serious injury or even death. Tribes need the authority to intervene in early incidences of domestic violence. Only by doing this can we break the chain of domestic violence that weighs down our communities.

The pending Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization presents an extraordinary opportunity to address the startling lack of law enforcement response to, and prosecutions for, incidences of domestic violence on Indian reservations. After years of struggling with this issue, those of us who live in Indian country have realized that the answer does not lie with the Federal and state governments, but with ourselves. We need to have in place systems of justice that will put fear in the heart of those who consider evil deeds, while also assure that all members of our communities have their basic rights protected. To do this, our Tribal courts must have authority to exercise limited domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over all individuals with close ties to tribal communities who commit domestic violence offenses on Indian lands. Only at the local level can we create the credible community expectations and standards that will significantly reduce this crisis."

Get the Story:
Brian Patterson: Let Us Protect Our Communities (Indian Country Today 12/14)

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