In many instances, rape or sexual assault committed by an Indian in Indian Country is a federal crime. In 2004, Congress passed the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771), also known as the CVRA. This landmark federal legislation secures eight, major rights to federal victims of crime:
The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or any release or escape of the perpetrator
The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at the proceeding
The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving the perpetrator’s release, plea, sentencing, or parole proceedings;
The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case
The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law
The right proceedings free from unreasonable delay
The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy
While the CVRA applies solely in federal jurisdictions, all states (and an increasing number of Tribes) have also adopted their own victims’ rights legislation. More than 100 Tribes have adopted some form of victims’ rights legislation. Some tribes have modeled victims’ rights codes after the federal and/or state statutes. Notification of hearings and the right to be heard during the sentencing phase are other common victims’ rights provisions in tribal codes.
American Indian/Alaskan Native women are citizens of their tribe, the state in which they live, and of the United States. Sexual assault victims may access state victim compensation funds for crimes reported to state, tribal, or federal law enforcement that are not prosecuted by the federal government. Federal victim compensation funds are available for crimes committed under federal law.
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*National Tribal Trial College 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.