Yesterday was the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Day of Action as bipartisan lawmakers in the US are “pushing to reauthorise the 1994 VAWA for the first time in almost a decade… [after] it lapsed in 2019 when the Republican-dominated Senate did not pass it”. It is f-cked up to me that this is even up for debate.
Angelina has been an VAWA advocate for some time now. She was in Washington, DC with Zahara just before Christmas for a strategy meeting about the legislation and spoke at the virtual rally yesterday. Her remarks are below – there are three videos in the thread, just under seven minutes, and worth your time:
During the middle section of her address, Angelina talks about how current domestic abuse procedures disadvantages people of colour and Indigenous victims in part because bruising isn’t as obvious in those with darker skin tones. There is technology and there are resources to improve detection for first responder and investigators but they don’t have access. She goes on to talk about how the system fails Indigenous assault victims because “tribal jurisdiction is limited”. That sent me on a search to learn more about the situation and this piece at The Lily is a good backgrounder on how federal domestic abuse policies fail members of the Indigenous communities and protect non-Indigenous perpetrators of violence against prosecution.
VAWA isn’t necessarily the solution to all of these shortcomings but they are looking to make improvements:
“VAWA’s progression over the past two and a half decades has, in part, been an attempt to fix these issues. When VAWA was reauthorized in 2013, a provision was added recognizing that tribes could prosecute [non-Indigenous people] “who assault [Indigenous] spouses or dating partners or violate a protection order in [Indigenous] country.”
Women’s rights advocates say major gaps remained, however, when it came to perpetrators women didn’t know — an oversight with deadly salience given the heavy prevalence of drilling for oil and minerals on or near reservations.
As legal scholar Lily Grisafi wrote in a 2020 paper: “The dangers of this jurisdictional gap are compounded on reservations near extractive industries, which bring with them thousands of transient, single men — who at times outnumber the women twenty to one — with stressful, high-paying jobs and no connection to the community. ”
It is this gap that the 2022 version of VAWA, which senators say they hope to introduce this month, attempts to fill by including anyone who commits violence against Indigenous women, whether the victim knows them or not.”
I would imagine, given how involved she’s been so far, Angelina would be aware of all of these complications and is using her platform to amplify the work that needs to be done to protect victims and potential victims, to finally begin implementing effective solutions in the hope of protecting and saving those who are at considerable risk, and Indigenous women and children in particular.
Here in Canada, we are dealing with our national shame – thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children, their lives ignored, their families neglected not only by authorities but by Canadian citizens. But this is an American problem too. And while it’s bigger than VAWA, this is a piece of legislation that at least acknowledges that domestic abuse victims and have not been a priority. It’s a bare minimum.
Angelina, Zahara, and Maddox were in New York earlier this week. Click the Twitter link to see the rest of the photos.