U.S. Senator Tina Smith & U.S. Representative Gwen Moore Push to Empower Tribes to Pursue Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/7/21] —Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) —a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—and U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) are pushing to make it easier to address violence against Native peoples by expanding Tribal jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence.

The “Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act” aims to get justice for survivors of sexual violence by restoring Tribal jurisdiction to prosecute cases of domestic and sexual assault, sex trafficking, stalking, and other related crimes committed by non-Native offenders on Tribal lands.

The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and in the House by Representatives Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).

“For far too long the federal government has failed Native survivors when it comes to prosecuting offenders,” said Sen. Smith. “Given the staggering rates of sexual violence committed by non-Tribal members against Native persons, it is critical that we pass my legislation to provide Tribes with the tools they need to support survivors and restore this jurisdiction to Tribes. This is an important step toward ensuring justice for Native survivors.”

“Nearly four in five Native women experience violence in their lifetime and sadly even fewer actually see justice,” said Sen. Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Smith to introduce the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act to expand Tribal authority to prosecute non-Native offenders for domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking crimes. These crimes must never be tolerated, and this legislation will empower Tribal members and Tribal courts to make their communities safer and protect those at higher risk of violent crimes and abuse.”

“Violence against American Indian and Alaskan Native women is an epidemic with some Tribal communities, Native women face murder rates 10 times the national average,” said Rep. Moore. “Tribal communities should be able to protect themselves so we must honor our nation-to-nation trust responsibility and recognize tribal sovereignty. I am proud to work with my colleagues, Representative Sharice Davids and Senator Tina Smith on this critical piece of legislation.”

“American Indian and Alaska Natives endure one of the highest rates of violence and sexual assault in the United States. These survivors deserve justice, and Tribal governments should have the jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native offenders for acts of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking against their people,” said Rep. Davids. “I am proud to join my colleagues in restoring the inherent tribal criminal jurisdiction on these crimes and I thank Representative Moore for her leadership.”

Reports from the National Institute of Justice found that over half of all Native American women—56 percent—and more than one in four men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. And among those, almost all—97 percent of women and 90 percent of men—were victimized by a non-Native offender. Despite the alarming statistics, few survivors ever see justice.

The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act aims to help survivors of sexual violence receive justice by:

  • Allowing Tribes to prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, sex trafficking, stalking, and obstruction of justice committed against Tribal members by non-Native offenders.
  • Eliminating the requirement that offenders must have “sufficient ties” to the land, thereby ensuring that all non-Tribal member offenders can be prosecuted for their crimes.

The legislation has been endorsed by the following organizations: National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Women’s Resource Center, Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Violence Free Minnesota, and Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

You can read a summary of the bill here.