U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp released the following statement following the House of Representative's passage of the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bill includes language Heitkamp pushed for to provide tribal governments the authority they need to prosecute non-Native perpetrators who commit these crimes on tribal land. The reauthorization of VAWA is the first Heitkamp co-sponsored bill to pass both the Senate and the House.
"I commend the House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. The provisions I fought for that give Native Americans the same protections as non-Natives are included and will be signed into law.
Last week, I traveled across North Dakota and heard firsthand from law enforcement officials, domestic violence victims and Native Americans about their experiences with the Violence Against Women Act. There was unanimous agreement that VAWA has helped improve the lives of North Dakota families. In fact, VAWA has reduced the incidences of domestic violence by more than 50 percent. This is real progress, but we can still do better. Senate and House passage of this reauthorization is an important step in our efforts to reduce the instances of domestic violence."
The bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA Reauthorization), S. 47, significantly strengthens the ability of the Federal Government, the States, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As with the previous reauthorizations of VAWA in 2000 and 2005, this bill responds to the realities and needs reported by those who work with victims every day to make VAWA even more effective for all victims.
A core principle of VAWA since its inception has been combating violence against Native women. The Reauthorization will work to strengthen the existing programs addressing the continuing crisis of violence against women in tribal communities. Women in tribal communities face domestic violence and sexual assault at a much higher rate than those faced by the general population.