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Senate Committee Addresses Need for Victims’ Services in Indian Country

On June 10, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing, “Addressing the Need for Victim Services in Indian Country.”

“AI/AN [American Indian and Alaska Native] women experience the highest rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in the nation…The rate of sexual violence victimization among Alaska Native Women was at least seven times the non-native rate. On average, in 2003-2004 an Alaska Native female became a victim of reported sexual assault or of child sexual abuse every 29.8 hours. The isolation of villages and the inability to easily access tribal communities further create vulnerabilities of re-victimization for Alaska Natives,” stated Darren Cruzan, director, Office of Justice Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A.T. Stafne, chair, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation, stated, “Given the strong foundation of our court and the Tribal Council’s desire to combat domestic violence with every tool possible, the Tribes elected to pursue the opportunity presented by the Violence Against Women Act [P.L. 113-4] and exercise our inherent jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants who commit domestic violence on our reservation. We did this because this is simply another avenue to provide justice to the victims. We think providing justice to victims is an important step in providing them a pathway to heal and move on with their lives.” He continued, “The Fort Peck Tribes were also recently notified that we are now a Substantially Implemented Tribe under the Adam Walsh Act and the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act [P.L. 109-248]…Our ability to register sex offenders is another important tool in protecting victims and potential victims.”

The following witnesses also testified during the hearing:

  • Dianne Barker Harrold, tribal court judge, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma; member, Cherokee Nation Victim Task Force; and
  • Gerad Godfrey, chair, Violent Crimes Compensation Board; senior advisor, Rural Business & Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Governor, State of Alaska.

 

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