Biden reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act empowering tribes to prosecute non-Native perpetrators

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. (Image from C-SPAN)

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed an omnibus spending package for fiscal year 2022 into law. The nearly 3,000-page bill includes a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA.

As a Delaware senator, Biden helped write the original piece of legislation nearly 30 years ago and has long championed the law. As president, he spoke about the measure on Wednesday.

“Even in 1994, we knew there was much more we had to do,” he said. “That was only the beginning. That’s why because of all of you in this room, every time we’ve reauthorized this law its been improved. It’s not like we didn’t know we wanted to do all these things in the beginning. We did as much as we could do and keep trying to add to it.”

The law focuses on domestic violence and sexual assault survivor programs. The reauthorization includes language that empowers tribes to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of child violence, sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking and other crimes.

The tribal provisions of VAWA also create an Alaska pilot project that will allow a small number of Native villages to exercise special tribal criminal and civil jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators in some cases.

Akiak Native Community Chief Mike Williams is also the Alaska region vice president for the National Congress of American Indians.

“This reauthorization of VAWA empowers us to take the necessary steps to build healthier and safer tribal communities in Alaska and across Indian Country for generations to come,” Williams said in a news release from the national Indigenous rights organization.

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