Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs)—also known as rape kits—have languished for decades in evidence storage facilities. SAKs are sets of items (e.g., fingernail scrapings, vaginal swabs) collected by medical professionals to preserve evidence from a victim of sexual assault. Investigators then can use this evidence for investigation and prosecution. Many of these kits contain a definitive (and in some cases, the only) piece of evidence linking an offender to a victim—DNA.
The What is Sexual Assault tab contains all of the basic legal concepts related to sexual violence. This section also contains information on the importance of proving the statutory elements of the crime; the definition of "consent"; and a listing of all Tribal, State, and Federal sexual assault statutes.
The Tribal Law and Policy tab contains information on tribal sexual assault laws and procedures. This section includes a compilation of tribal sexual violence statutes; a collection of tribal case law and precedent about sexual violence; a discussion and anthology about tribal rules of evidence and admissibility; information and resources about introducing tribal custom and tradition in tribal courts; information about tribal court prosecutions; and resources about tribal law enforcement.
The Federal Law and Policy tab contains information on Federal Laws and procedures addressing sexual violence in Indian Country. Also included are a compilation of major federal laws affecting victims of sexual violence in Indian Country; a compilation of federal agencies' policies concerning sexual assault and sexual violence; information and resources discussing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); information and resources discussing the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); information and resources discussing the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (TLOA); a collection of major federal case law affecting sexual assault victims in Indian Country; information and resources concerning the federal rules of evidence and admissibility of evidence during a federal court proceeding; information and discussion about federal sentencing and federal sentencing guidelines; and information and discussion about the Federal Rules of Procedure.
The Sex Offenders tab contains information on sex offender management and registration laws and includes resources on sex offender zoning laws and best practices for sex offender management.
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) has information and resources, including the full text of the statute, about federal sex offender registration requirements and criminal penalties for failure to register. Significantly, every time a sex offender moves, he must register in the new jurisdiction and follow the jurisdiction's reporting and registration requirements. With this in mind, the State Sex Offender Registration Laws tab contains a compilation of every state's registration and notification laws, including charts simplifying the statutory text. Similarly, the Tribal Sex Offender Registration Laws tab contains a compilation of resources on tribal sex offender registration laws.
There are also numerous, useful resources under the Protection Orders tab. This tab provides a basic explanation of protection orders, including the preferred drafting of a protection order. Also, under this tab, the reader will find a detailed explanation about Full Faith and Credit, discussing how a Tribal Protection Order must be enforced by States and vice versa. To aid the reader in their exploration of this topic, there is a compilation of State and Tribal Protection Orders and full faith and credit statutes.
A key legal topic in aiding victims is informing them of their rights. Accordingly, the Victim Rights tab contains numerous resources and discussions about Victim Rights. This includes the full text of federal victim rights statutes such as the Crime Victim Rights Act (CVRA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and state and tribal victim rights statutes.
Under the Public Law 280 tab, the reader will find information and resources about Public Law 280. This includes the full text of the statute and a discussion of its meaning and repercussions. This tab also contains statutes affecting victims of sexual violence from the mandatory Public Law 280 states: Alaska, California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
The Honorable Melvin Stoof (Lakota Sicangu) discusses federal-tribal collaboration in crimes of sexual violence in Indian Country
Under the Civil Law tab, the reader will learn that the victim has many legal options against sexual assault perpetrators in civil courts. Under this tab, the reader can read about tribal civil court jurisdiction and about how tribal courts can have jurisdiction over sexual assault perpetrators, regardless of whether the perpetrator is enrolled in a federally-recognized tribe. Also, a victim has the power to sue the perpetrator in tribal court for all monetary and emotional damages that arise from the assault. The reader can learn more about this under the and tabs.
Furthermore, any tribal court has the power to hold any perpetrator in civil contempt for violating a protection order, and the reader can find information and resources about civil contempt under thetab. Finally, if the victim is married to the perpetrator or has a preexisting romantic relationship with the perpetrator, there can be many other negative repercussions for the perpetrator in civil court. The reader can learn more about these repercussions under the , , , and tabs.
Furthermore, the negative impact of sexual assault upon the victim does not just have long-term physical effects, but it can also have long-term negative financial effects. There is a wide spectrum of potential financial implications on the victim, and under thetab, the reader can learn more about this. For example, under the tab, the reader can learn more about the impact of sexual assault upon the victim’s student loan repayment obligations. Similarly, sexual assault can have a negative impact upon the victim’s standing with the Internal Revenue Service and other financial institutions. Thus, under the tab, the reader can learn more about the laws and rules that impact victims’ taxes. Finally, the financial effects of sexual abuse can be so catastrophic that the victim may have to file for bankruptcy.
Additionally, a victim’s status as a victim of rape or domestic violence could have implications upon her rights to housing. For example, federal housing law prohibits landlords from denying federal housing benefits to victims of stalking or domestic violence because of the abuse. Furthermore, many women have been able to successfully argue that rape or domestic violence are specifically female problems and thus evicting a woman for being a victim of rape or domestic violence violates the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act. These federal protections of victims’ housing benefits are discussed further under thetab. Furthermore, many states secure additional rights for victims in addition to victims’ federal rights. These are discussed further under the tab.
Moreover, it is important to note that most victims of sexual violence are also victims of stalking. Stalking can encompass many different bad behaviors, including the perpetrator: physically following the victim, calling the victim on the phone, sending the victim letters or packages through the mail or through a courier, bombarding the victim with emails or instant messages, photographing the victim from a distance or with hidden cameras, installing surveillance software on the victim’s computer, or using global positioning systems (GPS) to track the victim’s car. Regardless of the method the perpetrator chooses to use, the correlation between stalking and sexual violence is significant. First, because tribal courts can only sentence perpetrators to one year imprisonment per crime, adding an additional count of stalking to the indictment could significantly increase the amount of punishment the perpetrator must serve. Second, a conviction for stalking against the perpetrator may increase the amount of benefits the victim receives. Under thetab, the reader will find significant discussion and resources about stalking and its correlation with sexual violence.
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*NICCSA is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.