WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and his fellow co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, Representatives John Katko (NY-24), Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Jackie Speier (CA-14), held a hearing to address the high rates of sexual violence on tribal lands and the disturbing statistics related to missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women.
“We created this task force to raise awareness about the harsh realities of sexual violence and encourage people to work across the aisle to not only support the victims of these heinous crimes, but also ensure our law enforcement officers have what they need to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Dave. “That mission includes Indian Country. I have visited several reservations and seen first-hand the danger posed by their lack of law enforcement resources. As someone who spent 25 years as a prosecutor, I know how important it is to have safe communities and am proud to have voted twice to increase the safety of Native women through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Today’s hearing helped shine a light on what Congress’ next steps should be in order to address the persistently high rates of violence experienced by Native women, and men, and I thank all our panelists for providing us with their insight on this serious threat.”
For this important conversation, the Task Force was joined by:
- Karoniehawi “Hawi” Thomas, Detective Sergeant at Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Police Department
- Elizabeth Carr, Senior Native Affairs Advisor, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
- Patricia Alexander, co-chair, Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Violence Against Women Task Force
- Mary Kathryn Nagle, Attorney and Partner, Pipestern Law
Since its enactment in 1995, each reauthorization of VAWA has included important reforms that have increased the safety of Native women and men across the United States. In 2013, Dave voted to reauthorize this historic legislation, which affirmed tribes’ inherent power to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all persons, including non-Indians, who commit domestic violence, dating violence, or who violate protection orders in Indian Country. However, domestic and intimate partner violence continues to have a disproportionately larger impact on tribal lands. According to a 2016 report by the National Institute of Justice, nearly 85% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. This includes 56.1% who have experienced sexual violence, 55.5% who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, 48.8% who have experienced stalking, and 66.4% who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.
In January of this year, Dave was chosen to be the new Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction over funding for the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs. In March, Dave and Chairwoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) held a Tribal Public Witness hearing where the Subcommittee heard about the high rate of turnover for Tribal law enforcement officers who are often recruited by other departments offering better salaries and benefits after being hired and trained. Since that time, Dave has met with several different tribes on the subject and continues to work to address gaps in law enforcement capabilities in Indian Country so that officers can effectively tackle the persistently high rates of violence experienced by Native women.