Community implements VAWA with ordinances and grants to prosecute offenders

November 2, 2018


Aaron J. Tohtsoni

Gila River Indian News


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 and since has been reauthorized a variety of times to provide funding to improve criminal justice efforts to investigate and prosecute domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault in the United States.


The landmark legislation was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, which was reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013, and has helped give a voice for women to speak out on heinous crimes. 


Under the Obama Administration, the 2013 reauthorization provided protections to members of the LGBTQ community. It also provided law enforcement with better resources to investigate rape cases, provided tools for college students on dating violence and sexual assault and allows relief for immigrant victims of domestic violence.


It also empowered tribal courts to prosecute those that commit domestic violence on tribal lands whether or not that offender is a member of that particular tribe or is non-Native.


Community Council adopted ordinances in May to implement Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ) over non-Natives who commit certain domestic violence offenses within the Community.


Part of those ordinances was to have non-Community members register their residency with the enrollment department. The residency ordinance, which went into effect on June 1, was so that they could be included in jury pools for the SDVCJ non-Native cases.


The Community received a federal grant of $495,000 to assist with VAWA implementation. A majority of the grant covers costs related to inmate housing of non-Natives as well as medical care. Another portion of the grant, covers training and technical assistance for the Community’s criminal justice department.


The Community’s police department has undergone training to recognize VAWA cases. The investigations are handled the same but now have a special code to identify the case. 


An incident took place in District 7, between a female Community member and a non-Native male. The pair have children together and an argument turned into a physical fight. Another incident took place when a non-Native male swung at a female Community member, an assault did not take place.


The number one crime committed in the Community is domestic violence, with 20 percent of police calls being related to domestic violence.