WASHINGTON - The Violence Against Women Act has always included specific provisions to address violence against Native women, but in 2005 it came to include Title IX, an entire section solely devoted to protecting Native women from violence.
The intent of the section has been welcomed everywhere, but critics maintain that without major funding its potential hasn't begun to be realized.
That could change in fiscal year 2008. Under auspices of the act, the Office on Violence Against Women has conducted annual tribal consultation meetings in 2006 and 2007. The office solicited recommendations from tribal leaders on the administration of grant funds and programs found in VAWA, enhancing the safety of Native women and strengthening the federal response to criminal domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The number of participating tribes in 2006 and the information they put on the table led OVW to appoint Lorraine Edmo as deputy director for tribal affairs, define its Tribal Government Program grants as discretionary rather than formula grants (allowing larger grants though fewer), and increase the grant period from 24 months to 36. The 2007 consultation took place Sept. 19 and results are not available, but anecdotal reports have been positive.
In addition, according to Senate Committee on Indian Affairs staff, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science has proposed $1 million in the FY '08 federal budget for both of two studies authorized by Title IX of VAWA. The studies, one by the National Institute of Justice and one by the Department of Health and Human Services, will establish baseline data on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and murder of American Indian and Alaska Native women, as well as projecting their incidence of injury and homicide from these crimes and estimating the resultant cost of health care treatment.
Matthew Mead, the U.S. attorney for Wyoming, described the importance of the studies before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in May. ''It is the hope of those working to combat violence against Indian women that these two studies will provide a clearer picture of how these crimes affect all Native women, those living on a reservation, or in a remote village, as well as those women living in an urban environment.''
The findings are expected to inform funding decisions.