MIWRC Press Release // Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Tribes Pursue Justice for Crimes of Sexual Violence Committed by Non-Indian Offenders.

Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Tribes Pursue Justice for Crimes of Sexual Violence Committed by Non-Indian Offenders.

Senator's "Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act" Seeks Recourse for Victims of Sexual Assault, Trafficking, and Stalking Crimes

For Immediate Release:
July 17, 2018

Contact:
Molly Morrissey
molly@smith.senate.gov
202-224-9857

WASHINGTON [07/17/18]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—has introduced bipartisan legislation to make sure tribes in Minnesota and across the country are able to prosecute crimes of sexual violence committed by non-Indian offenders.

According to the National Institute of Justice, over half of all Native American women—56 percent—and more than one in four men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. And among those, almost all—96 percent of women and 89 percent of men—were victimized by a non-Indian offender. Yet, few survivors ever see justice.

The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act—introduced with Senate Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—aims to help survivors of sexual violence by allowing tribes to prosecute cases of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking against non-Indian offenders.

You can read a summary of the bill here and access the text of the bill here.

“For a long time we’ve known that an alarming number of Native women and men endure sexual violence, and now we have the research to show the staggering occurrence of crimes of sexual violence committed by non-Native people in Indian Country. The federal government is failing Native survivors when it comes to prosecuting offenders,” said Sen. Smith. “If we want to support survivors in seeking the justice they deserve we can take an important step toward that goal by passing my bipartisan legislation.”

“Survivors of sexual violence in Indian Country deserve justice, but current federal law limits the abilities of tribes to fully prosecute these serious crimes,” said Sen. Udall. “This bipartisan legislation will restore needed jurisdiction to tribes and ensure that Native communities have the tools they need to keep families safe. I am glad to join with my colleagues on this bill, which, together with my Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act, pushes forward this important component of tribal public safety.”

“National rates of sexual assault against Native people are staggeringly high. It is even more troubling that perpetrators aren’t pursued because of jurisdictional disputes among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies,” said Sen. Murkowski. “This is a victims’ rights bill, making it clear that the tribes have jurisdiction to prosecute rapists and other perpetrators of sexual violence in Indian Country to ensure that justice for victims is not lost to loopholes in Indian law.”

“Too often victims of sexual violence in Indian Country never see justice. Our tribal citizens deserve better,” said Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. “This legislation will help ensure that tribal governments, just like state and local governments, are able to prosecute offenders who prey on their citizens.”

Outside of the limited special domestic violence jurisdiction granted to tribes under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization in 2013, tribal governments do not have the ability to punish crimes of sexual violence committed by non-Indian offenders. Furthermore, federal consideration of these cases rarely results in prosecution. According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, between 2005 and 2009, federal prosecutors declined to pursue 67 percent of sexual abuse and related offenses in Indian Country.

This legislation expands upon the special domestic violence jurisdiction granted under the 2013 VAWA reauthorization to include all crimes of sexual violence. Sen. Smith’s legislation also eliminates a requirement that non-Indian offenders must have “sufficient ties” to the land to ensure all non-Indian offenders can be prosecuted for their crimes.

This legislation is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

You can read a summary of the bill here and access text of the bill here.

Download PDF of this press release.

MIWRC's Summer 2018 eNewsletter // Mind Body Medicine

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Mind Body Medicine - Incorporating Indigenous Wisdom into Healing 

The Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center (MIWRC) is a non-profit community organization that provides social services and education to American Indian women and their families. Established in 1984 by three local Native women and one male Native ally, our Mission is to empower American Indian women and families to exercise their cultural values and integrity, and to achieve sustainable life ways, while advocating for justice and equity. Since 2012, MIWRC has been training indigenous community members in Mind-Body Medicine (MBM) to better incorporate self-care into their agency cultures, to support providers who serve and care for community members, and to address intergenerational trauma. See below for evaluation findings and participant feedback from our MBM pilot.

 First of two MBM Healing Events for Community Providers held on November 10, 2017. Second event was held on May 25, 2018. The purpose was to help providers with self-care and increase their capacity to work with relatives/clients. 

First of two MBM Healing Events for Community Providers held on November 10, 2017. Second event was held on May 25, 2018. The purpose was to help providers with self-care and increase their capacity to work with relatives/clients. 


Evaluation Findings 

MBM is Reducing Job-Related Stress and Burnout

I do the soft belly breathing if I feel myself overwhelmed by a task. I just try to take a moment to calm down or to get myself into different state of mind.

Participants report that using MBM techniques helps them to become calmer, more relaxed, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed. MBM helps them “stay in the moment. For many, it reduces burnout and exhaustion. Many have incorporated MBM into a regular part of their routine to prepare themselves for their workday.  

Providers are Using Mind-Body Medicine to Help Clients, Patients, and Students

They walk out of my door in a better state than when they walked in.

Many providers work with people who are experiencing severe trauma. They are using MBM to help the patients, clients, students, and others they work with to help them reduce stress and anxiety. Providers have used MBM to help people prepare for court appearances, cope with medical treatments, and deal with difficult family situations. 

Incorporating Indigenous Wisdom and Mind-Body Medicine

MIWRC has indigenized MBM training to incorporate indigenous wisdom, traditions, and culture, which resonates with many people who have been trained. Participants value that the training is led by indigenous trainers who incorporate ceremony and sacred traditions into the learnings.     

I think it’s key to the Native tradition and all a part of that sacred circle and how we take care of ourselves. How we can stay healthy or work towards being healthy, stay healthy, maintain healthy relationships. With family and community. I think it’s really key.
I really enjoyed a moment in the training where there was a group of us doing the dancing and shaking and laughter of course came. And I thought it was just such an experience of peace that came over me. Being in a group of women laughing and dancing and reconnecting to my body in a healthy way.

MBM Training Outcomes

 MIWRC's new tipi outside of our agency building in South Minneapolis.

MIWRC's new tipi outside of our agency building in South Minneapolis.

  • 51% had no prior experience or training in MBM
  • 96% know how to use MBM techniques to reduce their stress
  • 97% have a better understanding of the impact of stress on the body after training
  • 98% of participants reported they were satisfied with the MBM training

Thanks to our dedicated MBM practitioners.

 Donna LaChapelle & Linda EagleSpeaker

Donna LaChapelle & Linda EagleSpeaker

Donna LaChapelle (Ojibwe/Dakota) and Linda EagleSpeaker (Blackfoot) were the first Native American elders to become fully certified as faculty members by the Center for Mind Body Medicine.

MIWRC's Elder in Residence, Linda EagleSpeaker and NACC's Elder in Residence, Donna LaChapelle, work to extend the benefits of MBM and culturally-grounded trauma healing locally and regionally via our Mind-Body Medicine in Indian Country education and training program. 


Thank you to our evaluator, Dr. Linda Bosma, and to the funders who support our MBM work.

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