Navajo Nation social services and law enforcement officials held a conference April 27 and 28, exploring the vast and complicated issues family violence has on victims.
“I'm enthusiastic about the conference theme, 'Strengthening Our Community,' and the sub-theme, ‘Violence is Not Our Tradition,' because I truly believe the more we talk about the issues domestic violence has on our families, and our society, the more we can make a big difference for the world our children live in,” Councilman Joshua Lavar Butler (To'Nanees'Dizi/Tuba City) said at the conference.
At the 150-participant event, Butler announced his support and intent to sponsor an historic Navajo “Violence Against Family Act,” which will soon be drawing consideration by a Council committee.
“This bill will impose consequences upon the people who violate the Navajo values of K'é and Hozhó,” Butler said. “It will empower the Navajo criminal justice system to respond to domestic violence, which is contrary to the traditional Navajo Way of Life, and is a clear violation of fundamental human rights.
Butler's bill empowers police officers to arrest people who have probable cause of committing family violence. It also introduces minimum penalties for stalking, harassment, sexual assault and false imprisonment.
Introduced 14 years ago by members of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council Against Domestic Violence, the "law has been discussed, re-drafted, and reviewed by the agencies, shelters, the judiciary, and communities for at least 14 years," stated Bernadine Martin, Navajo Nation Chief Prosecutor, in a May 5 editorial in support of the law in the Navajo Times.
At the conference, Butler applauded the women's shelter Tohdenasshai Shelter home in Kayenta, and anticipates another women's shelter double the size.
“This shelter provides hope and a chance at a new beginning for women victimized by domestic violence,” Butler said. “I will strongly advocate for a shelter of hope to be built for my constituents in the Tuba City community as well.”