Congress originally passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, in order to address the epidemic of violence against women on the federal, state, tribal, and local levels. Although the purpose of VAWA has remained the same, to protect women from violence, the protections given to women under the Act have changed significantly. In fact, each time the Act has come up for reauthorization, Congress has expanded the Act’s protection of women. Most importantly, Congress has shown an increased concern about violence against Native women and correspondingly empowering tribes to protect their own members in the most recent versions of the VAWA.
For example, one of the most significant protections in the 2005 version of VAWA was Congress’ establishment of Full Faith and Credit for tribal protection orders. A protection order is a court order that protects a victim from further harassment from a perpetrator. These orders are ordinarily issued to keep a perpetrator of domestic, dating, stalking, or sexual violence away from the victim.
Before VAWA, tribal-court-issued protection orders were not enforceable in states or other tribes. Victims who resided in Indian Country would often have to seek different protection orders in a lot of different courts in order to stay safe. This system put a huge burden on the victim, and it was often times impractical because law enforcement officers had difficulty figuring out which protection order needed to be enforced.
Codified under 18 U.S. C. §2265, any qualifying protection order issued by a tribal court must be afforded full faith and credit by all other jurisdictions, including other tribes and states. Moreover, if a jurisdiction, other than the original tribe, must enforce that protection order, they must enforce it as if it was their own. In other words, protection orders are treated the same and are enforced the same, regardless of which jurisdiction issued the order.
VAWA enables victims to seek safety and to travel to other jurisdictions without the added burden of having to obtain new protection orders for every jurisdiction where they may work, pass through, attend school, or reside. Furthermore, assuming that the tribal court issued a valid protection order, the tribe has the power to enforce its own order, including holding the violator in civil or criminal contempt of domestic violence protection orders, regardless of whether the violator is an Indian.
Visit The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
"Tribal Implementation of VAWA" Resource Center!