Monthly Archives: September 2009

When leaving is lethal

Source: St. Louis Beacon

When leaving is lethal: Recent murders show separation can be dangerous when partner is abusive
By Nancy Larson, Special to the Beacon

Sun. Sept. 27 – By piling her four children into the family van as usual on Friday morning, Sept. 18, 27-year-old Melissa Amerson of St. Louis made a deadly decision. According to police, amid Amerson’s fastening of seatbelts and securing of car seats, her former partner Rodney Morris, 37, pulled the trigger of his gun and killed her before shooting himself — all in full view of the children, three of whom were his.

Had Amerson altered her regular schedule, Morris might have had more difficulty tracking her down. “Changing her routine is an effective part of a safety plan for an abused woman who is in fear of her abuser,” said Katie Wessling, an attorney for Legal Advocates for Abused Women.

Instituting new daily habits is a hassle for anyone, but it’s far more difficult for those, like Amerson, who have children needing to get to school and other activities. Amerson did choose another safety plan option: filing for an order of protection. On Aug. 28, Amerson indicated on the form for the order of protection that Morris had stalked, coerced and harassed her, and had caused or attempted to cause her physical harm.

The circuit court issued a 10-day, temporary ex-parte order, but Amerson did not show up for a hearing the day before she died that would have likely reinstated the order, according to Mariano Favazza, St. Louis circuit clerk. It’s not clear why Amerson missed the court appearance, But it’s not uncommon that when a woman seeks to protect herself through legal means, it sends her abuser over the edge, escalating threats as well as violence.

reed“The overwhelming majority of domestic violence happens when someone tries to leave, is getting an order of protection, or filing for divorce — somehow resisting his control,” noted Ellen Reed, executive director of Lydia’s House, a shelter for abused women. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a woman say, ‘I can’t get an order of protection, he’ll kill me’.”


An order of protection was in place when John Donley, 68, allegedly stabbed and killed Willie Mae Crenshaw, 67, on Sept. 12 in their home in the 5900 block of McArthur Avenue in St. Louis. Friends since grade school, Crenshaw and Donley lived as a couple for most of their adult lives, raising four children, three of whom he fathered. For most of those years, Crenshaw lived in fear of Donley, who once served prison time for a knife attack on a former wife, according to Crenshaw’s grandson Byron Hubbard, 20.

“She was very afraid of him. She would tell me every day, ‘The man is crazy out of his mind’,” Hubbard said.

While Donley had pulled a knife on his grandmother before, this was the first time he’d used it, Hubbard reported. After cutting off her hair at knifepoint, Hubbard said, Donley stabbed Crenshaw 20 times but even that brutal attack didn’t kill her immediately. She died a short time later at a hospital. He was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

The hacking off of Crenshaw’s hair is characteristic of domestic violence. “They go after an issue of pride or something that is of a particular vulnerability to them: ‘This has personal meaning and I’m going to take it away from you,'” Reed said.


While an order of protection apparently did not deter violence in the Crenshaw case, it can be effective in certain instances such as in a call for law enforcement to intervene in a domestic dispute.

“It enhances police response,” Wessling said. “If someone calls the police and says, ‘I have an order of protection,’ they have to respond right away and they have extra charges they can file against this person, as opposed to someone just calling and saying, ‘I’m having a fight with my boyfriend.'”

Those who work with victims of domestic violence say the person who’s being abused (usually a woman) should make the decision about whether filing for an order of protection would aggravate the situation. High-profile professionals will likely comply to avoid a police record, but they often exert their control through other methods.

“It can increase her safety but it almost always plays out in a different way like his controlling the kids, maybe upping the stakes in a custody situation,” Reed said.


The excessive number of stab wounds suffered by Crenshaw is consistent with what those in domestic violence circles have seen during the past year: an increase in the severity of attacks. An economic downturn such as the current recession does not cause domestic violence, Reed emphasized, but its impact can elevate frustration levels and create more opportunity.

“Women are less able to leave if they’ve lost transportation, living wage jobs and day care — or any of the services that are critical for being able to survive on their own,” Reed said.

St. Louis city reported six of the 85 homicides committed so far in 2009 were domestic-related homicides. In 2008, nine of 167 homicides were domestic-related. St. Louis County does not break out homicide as a result of domestic disputes. Statewide, 54 died in domestic disputes of all types — anyone related by blood or in a current or past intimate relationship — last year, up from 35 the year before, according to the Missouri Statistical Analysis Center. In most of these homicides, women are killed by men.

According to Reed, the percentage of homicides that are related to domestic violence is actually much higher than it appears. For example, Reed cites the July 3 killing of Deborah Marsch of Union, Mo.

“According to media coverage, Ms. Marsch was a stranger to Timothy Shults, now under arrest for her murder. However, statements in the media indicate that Shults was lashing out at women in general because he was angry with his wife. While this killing will likely not be counted as a domestic homicide, there is, nonetheless, a direct and telling link to the recent spate of local homicides that have been fueled by the entitlement and control issues of domestic violence.”

Every day in the United States, three women are killed by current or former partners. Preventing domestic violence starts with educating young boys about taking responsibility for their actions and effectively communicating with others, according to Janeen McGee, executive director of Raven, a local organization treating perpetrators of domestic violence. But not enough work is being done in this area, McGee said: “If anybody else was dying at that rate in a way that was fairly preventable, we would be much more focused on that.”

Source: St. Louis Beacon

Missing women found buried near Albuquerque

Story by Women’s eNews

Summary of article: After combing an almost 100-acre area on the outskirts of Albuquerque, investigators found the remains of 11 women, one of whom was four months pregnant. As of late-September, seven of the 11 women have been identified.

All had been reported missing between 2003 and early 2005. Each had been murdered and the bodies buried in shallow graves.

The police department has compiled a list of 24 women missing from Albuquerque, which included the murder victims. There is speculation about whether the other missing women were murdered and are also buried out west of Albuquerque.

Friends and family of the victims are working to change the way the system responds when a missing persons report is filed.
Read the complete story from Women’s eNews

White Anti-Racism

What does anti-racist” mean? How can guilt get in the way? And what’s all this talk about being “colorblind”?  Teaching Tolerance asked community activists to share their thoughts on these questions, and others. Their answers shine light on the concepts of comfort, power, privilege and identity.


This Q & A delves into the “finer lines” of white anti-racism and should be used with older students and adults.

The Participants:

  • Diane Flinn, a white woman and managing partner of Diversity Matters.
  • Georgette Norman, an African American woman and director of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum
  • Sejal Patel, a South Asian American woman and community organizer in South Asian immigrant communities
  • Yvette Robles, a Chicana and Community Relations Manager in Los Angeles

What does “white anti-racist” mean to you?

I associate this terminology with action and behavior more than an identity or subject position. Anti-racist, for me, is more indicative of a process of coming to a healthy and functioning sense of a white racial identity.

One of the functions and privileges of racism is that white people don’t, as a whole, carry race as an identity — you get to be individual, you get to be “yourself,” you get to be the norm, you get to be whole and not partial or hyphenated. You do not have to make “adjustments” or “modifications” to know or name yourself.

I also think my discomfort [with the term anti-racist] is fueled by it being based on what I am not. It is the proverbial “I’m not a racist” disclaimer used by whites to separate themselves from the realities of racism and race-based privilege.

What are common mistakes white activists make when trying to be allies to people of color?

Not acknowledging that they have power and privilege by the mere fact that they are white. That is not to say that other parts of their identity can’t lead them to feel powerless, for example, being white and gay, or being white and working class. Another mistake I see is when white activists try to emulate a different culture by changing how they act, their speech or style of dress. It’s one thing to appreciate someone else’s culture; it’s quite another to adopt it.

The most common mistakes white activists make are 1) setting an agenda with the illusion of inclusion, and 2) having to have a franchise on comfort. God forbid a person of color says or does anything to make white activists feel uncomfortable. That means there can be no discussion of race and no challenge to their privilege, which means no challenge to their power.

White anti-racists make a mistake when they shut out the poor and uneducated and keep in those “in the know” to decide what’s good for people of color. No movement can work where there is divisiveness.

Also, if people of color want to have their own space and place in certain aspects of society — say for a weekend or a month — they shouldn’t have to feel like they are being exclusive for doing this. White activists need to understand that society is their space and place every single day, and they shouldn’t feel threatened or left out.

When attempting to be allies to people of color, is there a point when white people “get it” (and what does “getting it” mean)?

“Getting it” is the biggest point, I feel. Getting it means many things: the ability for white activists to understand that they have a space and place of privilege. It really is up to white people to give up their privilege and be okay with that. Giving it up will make white people truly sensitive to the issues of racism, classism, sexism and homophobia.

White activists need to understand that they can’t completely understand or “get” the experience of a person of color. They should trust that their allies, people of color, are not being too sensitive or complaining. Everyone, especially U.S. citizens, has some sort of privilege in their lives, and, as a person of color, I make sure that people have space to express themselves in a way they feel is right. I need to trust that my white allies will do the same for me when I need it.

Diane: I believe that white allies can “get it” if we define “getting it” as becoming attuned to the subtle effects of racial bias in everyday interactions and environments. We can “get it” if we recognize the systemic presence of racism and how race-based oppression is allowed to continue. If we identify and own racial privilege and, as white people, have our own experiences of exclusion so we can authentically empathize, then we are “getting it.” We “get it” when we value equity, human rights and social justice.

How would you describe the stages of becoming a white anti-racist/ally?

  1. Realize the meanings behind privilege, racism and whiteness.
  2. Look within before you look outward. How do you relate to the definitions? Pinpoint the ways in which you experience privilege as a white person.
  3. Look outward, find out the historical, global and social patterns of the effects of racism and other forms of oppression.
  4. Act. Realize that you want to do something about this system, and come at it with a sensitivity and understanding that you come from a privileged background whether you like it or not.

How does guilt affect white anti-racism? 

Diane: Guilt allows white people to maintain the status quo. Guilt creates paralysis. Guilt transfers the responsibility to people of color. Guilt continues the aspect of racism wherein white people put people of color in a situation of taking care of us.

By saying, “I feel so guilty, so bad,” it puts the other person in a position of comforting. The other person is then silenced, must reposition or restate their truth. Or worse — maintain their truth and risk being viewed as mean, insensitive and angry.

Guilt is where most white people get stuck. Guilt is the ultimate obstacle in the personal journey to being a white ally.
How can white privilege get in the way?

Privilege and power perpetuate and maintain the hierarchy in our society. It defines ‘being’ by virtue of skin color. It also defines the kind of relationship you have or are allowed to have and with whom. While many white activists won’t admit it, a black person would only have to call them on any issue, and they will promptly remind you of your place and your guest status at the table.

The question, then, becomes how does one get knowledge and access to that power? How does one rise above powerlessness and dependency? Self-determination is one component, but equally important is for white people to yield access to power.

It is challenging to recognize how my way of doing things and the rules of conduct that I understand are informed by privilege.

Privilege, by its very nature, will “get in the way” as white people move toward and work as allies.

Unfortunately, the more a white person works through his or her whiteness and toward being an ally, the more difficult it becomes to self-identify privilege. You usually can’t see it when you are in it; in other words, do fish know they’re wet?

What do you think of the concept of being “colorblind”?

I hate it. While I think I get the “intention” behind the comment, the reality, when applied, is that a whole segment of the community — people of color — are disregarded. When I hear that we should strive for a colorblind society, I hear that we should all adopt to one norm, which may be the most familiar or comfortable for American culture. American culture in the U.S., in my opinion, translates directly to white mainstream culture.

There is no room for diversity in that statement. As a person of color, a Latina, a woman, it means that I need to let go of all that makes me who I am in order to blend into what is acceptable. A colorblind society reminds me of the melting pot theory. I would rather be a part of a “tossed salad,” where all different types of people can coexist and live together while maintaining their own personal identities.

To be “colorblind” implies the invisibility of race, something we all know to not be invisible. My experience of the world is informed by being white; other people experience and interact with me informed by my whiteness so, for me, colorblindness feels like an erasure. To be colorblind is to not see my family, where we come from, our history, and our ways of being. “Colorblind” avoids difference rather than recognizing and valuing it. I do not see how a white activist can be an ally from a position of colorblindness. I understand that many people use this term to challenge racial stereotyping, to not see people “as” their color and the associated racial stereotypes, but it functions as assimilation. If we become “colorblind,” than to which worlds and ways of being are we being blinded? What are we not “seeing?” And in which “hue” will we be operating?

I personally find it offensive. The largest organ I have is skin, which happens to be brown and rather than accept it, some who call themselves allies want to be blind to it.

Of course we have differences and its okay. Let’s be realistic — as much as it would be nice to have a colorblind society, that’s not the way it is given our historical landscape. That’s not the way we are socialized to think.

Discussion Questions:
Diane says: “Anti-racist, for me, is more indicative of a process of coming to a healthy and functioning sense of a white racial identity.” Why is the word “functioning” important?

Sejal says: “If people of color want to have their own space and place in certain aspects of society — say for a weekend or a month — they shouldn’t have to feel like they are being exclusive for doing this.” Why might people of color sometimes want their “own” spaces? Are there ever instances when white people should do anti-racist work in isolation? Why?

Guilt and white privilege, these activists say, can sometimes get in the way of white people being effective allies in the struggle against racism. What qualities or actions can help white people be effective allies?

The activists all reject the idea of “colorblindness.” Many people contribute the “goal” of colorblindness to a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Was Dr. King advocating that people ignore color? Ignore racism? Why?

Teaching Tolerance


Women warriors take on domestic violence and sexual assault

By Tanya Lee, Today correspondent
Sep 18, 2009

From North Dakota to Arizona, strong, talented, accomplished Native American women are taking up the challenge of protecting themselves and their sisters, their mothers and aunts, their grandmothers and granddaughters, from the devastation of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The level of violence against women and children in the U.S. is appalling, and the numbers for Native American women and children are staggering. An estimated one in three Native American women will suffer a sexual assault in her lifetime, compared with one in six for the population as a whole, according to figures from the U.S. Justice Department.

“Crimes against Indian women and children strike at the very heart of tribal sovereignty,” reads the 2007 Senate Indian Affairs Committee concept paper on law and order that identified domestic violence and sexual assault as one of the five critical areas in which law enforcement in Indian country was failing.

Following the release of the paper in November 2007, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008 was introduced in the Senate and the House July 23, 2008. The last action on the bill was Sept. 18, 2008, when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held hearings. The bill didn’t pass and was reintroduced in the 111th Congress April 2. The Senate held a hearing on the proposed legislation June 25. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has scheduled another hearing for mid-September, and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women is considering a Tribal Consultation Oct. 30 in Minneapolis.

Congress is expected to be absorbed in health care reform and climate-change legislation this fall.

But in North Dakota, Linda Thompson and her colleagues at the First Nations Women’s Alliance and its member organizations are organizing themselves to be more effective in supporting – and healing – the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault on the four North Dakota Indian reservations.

“It’s often thought that young black men are the most victimized in the U.S., but it is actually Native women,” said Thompson, paraphrasing a statement in the Justice Department report, “American Indians and Crime.”

The needs on reservations are many and include not enough law enforcement officers, making response times longer; a lack of education within Native American communities about domestic violence and sexual assault; a lack of knowledge in the wider community about the cultural and family values of Indian victims and perpetrators; and not enough attention to how these crimes affect a family, an extended family, a community, a child.

“Our people need help with both the criminal aspects of domestic violence and help to heal from their experiences,” Thompson said. “We have a lot of really good options for treatment; our goal is to empower and to heal. Our people have options, whatever their religion, Native or non-Native.

“All major crimes on our reservations go to federal law enforcement. The FBI makes the case and the U.S. Attorney decides whether or not to prosecute. Roughly 70 percent of the domestic violence/sexual assault cases in Indian country in North Dakota are declined. But just because they didn’t take the case doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

What Thompson wants for her organization and for other Native American groups dealing with these crimes and their victims is simple: A seat at the table. “Our goal is to educate tribal leaders across the nation and to set up regular meetings with the U.S. Attorneys Offices and the FBI. We need government-to-government meetings, so we can have some input into what’s happening; we want to create a relationship.”

Thompson is optimistic about this moment and this administration. Then-Senator, now Vice President Joe Biden, she said, wrote the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and was the one who ensured that Native Americans were specifically included in it.

“It’s a good time to be doing this work,” she said. “It’s the first time in history that we’ve had a White House interested in being involved. And President Obama made a commitment to getting to know Native American governments.”

The Hopi-Tewa Women’s Coalition to End Abuse, a non-governmental nonprofit incorporated this year, is working toward many of the same ends – to promote safety and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, to promote leadership for change in the community’s response to violence against women, to educate the public and make positive changes for the eradication of violence against women, explained Director Dorma Sahneyah.

The organization was first funded in 2008 by a grant from the DoJ’s Office on Violence Against Women. Those dollars were used to set up a board of directors, establish bylaws, and fill out and file incorporation papers. A Recovery Act grant won by the coalition will allow the organization to continue its work for the next two years.

“We’re focusing on collaborating with the Hopi Health Care Center to help them develop the forensic and medial capability to treat victims right here on Hopi. Otherwise victims have to go to Flagstaff [about 90 miles away]. We want to provide services for sexual assault victims here at home. We’re also planning to develop a Hopi Sexual Assault Response Manual for law enforcement and to host a reservation-wide conference for victims, government departments and law enforcement,” Sahneyah said.

Victims, she explained, often feel their experience is of little interest to law enforcement or the courts. “People have been upset about how the reports they make to law enforcement have been handled. The system is caught up in doing what it does, but not so much with the victims. They feel alone. That’s why we are using the victims center model. We can offer the support they need, and the help they need to go to court. Court can be very intimidating for people, and if the charges are filed in federal court, they must go all the way to Prescott or Phoenix.”

Sahneyah said there are six Hopi and Tewa women on the board and one to be voted on soon.

“I want to give credit to the women who are committed to this work on Hopi. They are very strong women, already seen as community leaders,” Sahneyah said. “They are learning their roles and responsibilities. They care. All of them are volunteers. The all have other jobs. They’re wonderful.”

The OVW administers 18 grant programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and other legislation.

Saving the World’s Women

Saving the World’s Women

August 17, 2009

In the 19th Century, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.

Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

One place to observe this alchemy of gender is in the muddy back alleys of Pakistan. In a slum outside the grand old city of Lahore, a woman named Saima Muhammad used to dissolve into tears every evening. A round-faced woman with thick black hair tucked into a head scarf, Saima had barely a rupee, and her deadbeat husband was unemployed and not particularly employable. He was frustrated and angry, and he coped by beating Saima each afternoon. Their house was falling apart, and Saima had to send her young daughter to live with an aunt, because there wasn’t enough food to go around.

“My sister-in-law made fun of me, saying, ‘You can’t even feed your children,’ ” recalled Saima when Nick met her two years ago on a trip to Pakistan. “My husband beat me up. My brother-in-law beat me up. I had an awful life.” Saima’s husband accumulated a debt of more than $3,000, and it seemed that these loans would hang over the family for generations. Then when Saima’s second child was born and turned out to be a girl as well, her mother-in-law, a harsh, blunt woman named Sharifa Bibi, raised the stakes.

“She’s not going to have a son,” Sharifa told Saima’s husband, in front of her. “So you should marry again. Take a second wife.” Saima was shattered and ran off sobbing. Another wife would leave even less money to feed and educate the children. And Saima herself would be marginalized in the household, cast off like an old sock. For days Saima walked around in a daze, her eyes red; the slightest incident would send her collapsing into hysterical tears.

It was at that point that Saima signed up with the Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani microfinance organization that lends tiny amounts of money to poor women to start businesses. Kashf is typical of microfinance institutions, in that it lends almost exclusively to women, in groups of 25. The women guarantee one another’s debts and meet every two weeks to make payments and discuss a social issue, like family planning or schooling for girls. A Pakistani woman is often forbidden to leave the house without her husband’s permission, but husbands tolerate these meetings because the women return with cash and investment ideas.

Saima took out a $65 loan and used the money to buy beads and cloth, which she transformed into beautiful embroidery that she then sold to merchants in the markets of Lahore. She used the profit to buy more beads and cloth, and soon she had an embroidery business and was earning a solid income — the only one in her household to do so. Saima took her elder daughter back from the aunt and began paying off her husband’s debt.

When merchants requested more embroidery than Saima could produce, she paid neighbors to assist her. Eventually 30 families were working for her, and she put her husband to work as well — “under my direction,” she explained with a twinkle in her eye. Saima became the tycoon of the neighborhood, and she was able to pay off her husband’s entire debt, keep her daughters in school, renovate the house, connect running water and buy a television.

“Now everyone comes to me to borrow money, the same ones who used to criticize me,” Saima said, beaming in satisfaction. “And the children of those who used to criticize me now come to my house to watch TV.”

Today, Saima is a bit plump and displays a gold nose ring as well as several other rings and bracelets on each wrist. She exudes self-confidence as she offers a grand tour of her home and work area, ostentatiously showing off the television and the new plumbing. She doesn’t even pretend to be subordinate to her husband. He spends his days mostly loafing around, occasionally helping with the work but always having to accept orders from his wife. He has become more impressed with females in general: Saima had a third child, also a girl, but now that’s not a problem. “Girls are just as good as boys,” he explained.

Complete story in New York Times
Complete story archived

Recovery Funds Help Native American Women Victims of Violence

Recovery funds offer promising start on justice issues

By Leeanne Root

Source: Indian Country Today

 September 4, 2009

Some terrible statistics loom over the lives of indigenous women: They are more than twice as likely as non-Native women to be victims of sexual violence and domestic violence, and one in three will be raped in her lifetime. According to the National Tribal Justice Resource Center, homicide was among the leading causes of death for young Indian women as recently as a decade ago. Further, most of these women were killed by a relative or someone they knew.

Figures like these seem to circle around Native communities like vultures, casting ominous shadows wherever women walk.

To help combat this devastating crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a number of grants to support tribal governments and coalitions throughout Indian country.

To ensure that perpetrators of
crimes against Native women are brought to justice, there must be a coordinated effort to reduce the complexity of tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives.

Recovery Act funds will aid Indian communities in Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas and Michigan; as well as Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana and North Dakota. Oklahoma, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin will also receive funds. The aid to tribal programs and coalitions will help develop violence awareness and prevention programs benefitting women, men, children, teens and elders. These response services and culturally appropriate support programs for survivors can have a lasting residual effect on families and communities.

More than $20 million will be provided to the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women for the Indian Tribal Governments Program to decrease the number of violent crimes committed against Indian women, help Indian tribes use their independent authority to respond to crimes of violence against Indian women and make sure people who commit violent crimes against Indian women are held responsible for their actions.

That’s a tall order, due to myriad jurisdiction issues that have allowed violence against Native women to metastasize. Some tribal leaders had a chance to express this concern as the Obama administration in August invited Indian leaders to Washington for consultations, while DoJ convened the first sessions of its Tribal Nations Listening Conference in an effort to improve federal-tribal coordination and action. These are positive and welcome steps toward an open dialogue between Native nations and the White House.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the funds reflect a “renewed partnership” between the DoJ and tribal communities “to ensure the safety of every Indian woman and address tribes’ criminal justice challenges.” Indeed, true change will require more than a monetary solution.

To ensure that perpetrators of crimes against Native women are brought to justice, there must be a coordinated effort to reduce the complexity of tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives. Consider that in at least 86 percent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, the survivors report the perpetrators are non-Native men. Matters of jurisdiction must not be ignored. Because of what Amnesty International calls a “maze of injustice,” valuable time and already limited resources are spent determining which system has authority to investigate these crimes. It is a terrible insult to survivors – and sends a disturbing message to criminals.

We appreciate these recent efforts by the Obama administration to address justice issues, and for the sake of Indian women and their families, we hope this meaningful, nation-to-nation dialogue continues.

Source: Indian Country Today

Presidential Proclamation-15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act

September 14, 2009




Today, we commemorate a milestone in our Nation’s struggle to end violence against women. Authored by then United States Senator Joe Biden and signed into law in September 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was the first law to create a comprehensive response to this problem at the national level. This landmark achievement has helped our Nation make great strides towards addressing this global epidemic.

VAWA sought to improve our criminal justice system’s response to violence against women and to increase services available to victims. It directed all 50 States to recognize and enforce protection orders issued by other jurisdictions, and it created new Federal domestic violence crimes. The law also authorized hundreds of millions of dollars to communities and created a national domestic violence hotline.

This bipartisan accomplishment has ushered in a new era of responsibility in the fight to end violence against women. In the 15 years since VAWA became law, our Nation’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking has strengthened. Communities recognize the special needs of victims and appreciate the benefits of collaboration among professionals in the civil and criminal justice system, victim advocates, and other service providers. With the support of VAWA funds, dedicated units of law enforcement officers and specialized prosecutors have grown more numerous than ever before. Most importantly, victims are more likely to have a place to turn for help — for emergency shelter and crisis services, and also for legal assistance, transitional housing, and services for their children.

Despite this great progress, our Nation’s work remains unfinished. More families and communities must recognize that the safety of our children relates directly to the safety of our mothers. Access to sexual assault services, especially in rural America, must be increased. American Indian and Alaska Native women experience the highest rates of violence, and we must make it a priority to address this urgent problem. We must also work with diverse communities to make sure the response to violence is relevant and culturally appropriate. We must prevent the homicide of women and girls who have suffered from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Far too many women in our communities and neighborhoods, and across the world, continue to suffer from violence. Inspired by the promise and achievement of the Violence Against Women Act, our Nation stands united in its determination to end these crimes and help those in need.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. I call upon men and women of all ages, communities, organizations, and all levels of government, to work in collaboration to end violence against women.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.