Sexual Assault Epidemic Against Native Americans – Will VAWA Help?

Rape is at epidemic levels among Native Americans. Some mothers seek out Plan B for “when” their daughters get raped — not “if.”

The numbers bear out their fears. In some rural villages, rapes are 12 times more common than the national rate, and for Native American women, generally sexual assault is more than twice as common as the national average, according toThe New York Times. The Alaska Federation of Natives cites a 2010 report by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, finding that while only 15.2 percent of Alaskans are Native American, they are the victims of 50 percent of the domestic violence and 61 percent of the sexual assaults committed in the state.

The vast majority of these crimes go unpunished. Local police, expected to prevent rapes and to respond quickly to reports of rapes, sometimes don’t respond at all. Hospitals lack the rape kits and cameras that would allow the collection of biological and photographic evidence to be used at trial. Most Native American rape victims don’t bother to take the nearly futile step of reporting rapes in the first place.

The men who commit these crimes are often not Native American themselves. Indian Country reports that “non-Indians commit 88%” of rapes and domestic violence against Native American women, but they are beyond the reach of local justice: “antiquated jurisdictional laws” prevent tribal justice systems “from prosecuting non-Native criminals.”

This has become a sticking point in the debate over renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Senate passed a version of the bill that “would grant new powers to tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians suspected of sexually assaulting their Indian spouses or domestic partners,” Timothy Williams writes in The New York Times. But the House passed a bill that excluded that new protection, apparently out of fear of expanding the powers of tribal courts to adjudicate cases against non-Natives.

Native American victims of domestic violence who seek protection orders have no place to turn other than tribal courts in more than 90 rural Alaska communities that have no other law enforcement presence, as the Alaska Federation of Natives recently wrote to Congress. If Indian womens’ batterers are not Native, tribal courts lack jurisdiction to grant those crucial orders of protection and the women are left with nothing to shield them from the men who abuse them.

Call on your federal Congressperson in the House of Representatives to support the Senate version of VAWA and insure that protections for Native American women and authority for tribal councils are included in the bill. You can find your representative’s contact information at


Related Stories:

GOP Version of VAWA Only Protects SOME Abuse Victims

House Passes VAWA Bill So Bad Men’s Rights Group Endorses It

United Nations Investigating Native Americans’ Plight

Photo credit: wellstone.action


Mick P.
Mick P.5 years ago

It's shocking how little feminists care about these rapes. Even a cursory examination of the issue shows that all these rapes could be investigated, tried and punished as well as rapes against non-native women if the DOJ would actually do their job. Yet the feminists don't say a word against the DOJ or suggest the simplest changes (like firing the attorneys who don't want to prosecute rapes because other cases are more exciting/better for their career). No instead they seek an increase in the power of the notoriously corrupt tribal courts, because ro them any increase in government power is good.. Feminists you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Hugo L.
Hugo L5 years ago

Signed the petition. Thanks Susan!

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Connie T.
Past Member 5 years ago


Phillipa Mazidi


Dianne Houlli
Dianne Houlli5 years ago

Nothing changes, certain white men have always taken it as their (sick) right to use and abuse the native women of America. We all live in societies, some much worse than others, but its still there, where if you look around you, women are not regarded as the other half of the human race, and the better half at that! But as objects (paraded in magazines and other areas of society, the way cars or other material goods are!) possessions, inferiors and servants. Everywhere you look there are laws which enable abuse by men, in England it wasnt that long ago that they finally decided that a man did not have the right to rape his wife! And England is probably one of the most advanced countries for womens rights. Native Amercian women are the ones holding their society together right now, they show the power of women in the way they cope with their lives against all the odds and do great with it too. They are most often the campaigners against the injustice which surrounds their people, they are the ones fighting for a better world and they succeed with their fights! Having to deal with this extra danger is so outrageous. Surely any crime committed against a Native American should be tried by a Native American court. Stop enabling laws which pracitally give these morons carte blanche to endulge their pathetic little power fantasies!

anthony r.
anthony r6 years ago

As a Native American Woman myself I believe we have enough problems without having this happen to us... Our people need to be strong and fight this kind of thing go back to our ways of our grandfathers and stop all this crime against woman and eachother and live in peace again... Start respecting eachother like we once did...

Deirdre G.
Deirdre G6 years ago

I sign the petition. this is disgraceful

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W6 years ago


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

Have written to my Congressman, and signed the petition. Why do I feel (know) that that is not enough in this current House?.