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Violence Against Women Act, S. 1197

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, last evening, S. 1197, ;the Violence Against Women Act, was passed out of the Senate. I commend the Judiciary Committee for including Title 9, Safety for Indian Women, in its bill to reauthorize the act. Title 9 focuses on the needs of Indian tribes to enable them to reduce and treat incidents of domestic violence in Indian country. Among other things, it would authorize the creation of tribal criminal history databases to document domestic violence convictions and protection orders and it creates a new Federal criminal offense authorizing Federal prosecutors to charge repeat domestic violence offenders before they seriously injure or kill someone. S. 1197 also would authorize the Bureau of Indian Affairs police and certain tribal officers to make arrests for domestic violence assaults committed outside of their presence.

Since 1999, the Department of Justice has issued various studies showing that Indian women experience the highest rates of domestic violence compared to all other groups in the United States. These reports state that one out of every three Indian women are victims of sexual assault; that from 1979 to 1992, homicide was the third leading cause of death of Indian females between the ages of 15 to 34; and that 75 percent of those deaths were committed by a family member or acquaintance. What we don't know, however, is the impact of these violent acts on law enforcement, judicial, mental or medical services in Indian country. I am, therefore, pleased to see that this bill would authorize a comprehensive study of domestic violence in Indian Country to gauge the impact of these acts to Indian tribes and their resources. The findings of such a study will help the Congress and the administration to better focus resources to areas with the greatest need.

Earlier this Congress, Senator Dorgan and I introduced the Restoring Safety to Indian Women Act. We worked closely with the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure that the provisions of this bill, some of which I mention here, were given due consideration. Throughout the more comprehensive S. 1197, Indian tribes would be eligible for various grants to enhance their victim services, judicial function, and law enforcement service capacity to the same extent as State and local governments are eligible.

Domestic violence is a national problem and not one that is unique to Indian country. Yet, due to the unique status of Indian tribes, there are obstacles faced by Indian tribal police, Federal investigators, tribal and Federal prosecutors and courts that impede their ability to respond to domestic violence in Indian country. Title 9 of this bill goes a long way toward removing these obstacles at all levels and to enhance the ability of each agency to respond to acts of domestic violence when they occur. These critical changes to the current law will greatly curb violence against Indian women, and perhaps even save lives.

Again, I thank the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for their thoughtful consideration in drafting a bill that includes an often forgotten segment of our population, the Nation's Indian tribes.

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