The issue of sexual assaults on American Indian women has become one of the major sources of discord in the current debate between the White House and the House of Representatives over the latest reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, says the New York Times. One in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape, says the Justice Department. Their rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average.
Women's advocates say no place is more dangerous than Alaska's isolated villages, where there are no roads in or out, and where people are further cut off by undependable telephone, electrical, and Internet service. A Senate version of VAWA, passed with broad bipartisan support, would grant new powers to tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians suspected of sexually assaulting their Indian spouses or domestic partners. House Republicans and some Senate Republicans oppose the provision as a dangerous expansion of the tribal courts' authority, and it was excluded from the version that the House passed last Wednesday.