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Published February 22, 2013, 04:13 PM

Heitkamp: Violence Against Women Act Will Prevent Crime on Reservations

Senator Heidi Heitkamp says Native American women and children will be afforded much greater protection if an updated Violence Against Women Act becomes law. Heitkamp spent Friday explaining proposed changes in the law and getting feedback from tribal members.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

Senator Heidi Heitkamp says Native American women and children will be afforded much greater protection if an updated Violence Against Women Act becomes law. Heitkamp spent Friday explaining proposed changes in the law and getting feedback from tribal members.

As the law stands now, tribal courts are powerless to prosecute non-tribal members if they assault tribal members on reservations. Those cases can only be tried in Federal court, which often ignores them. The new version of the Violence Against Women Act passed by the senate would close that loophole by letting tribal courts prosecute non-tribal members. Tribal health experts say people know about the loophole and it helps contribute to assaults against tribal members. Heitkamp says changing the law will make it easier to keep potential victims safe.

Heitkamp also says congressional representatives will be at a meeting between the BIA and Spirit Lake tribal council next week to update the progress of the tribes embattled social services program.

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