Murkowski Commits to VAWA Reauthorization

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) yesterday spoke on the Senate floor about the need for a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This speech dovetails an announcement made by Senator Murkowski and her colleagues, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), that they have developed a bipartisan framework to modernize and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

The framework agreement includes provisions that strengthen rape prevention and education efforts and services and protections for young survivors, closes the dating partner loophole, and includes an Alaska pilot program which will empower a limited number of Tribes to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes that occur in Alaska Native villages.

 ANCSA speech

Click here for video of Senator Murkowski

Speech Excerpts:

Murkowski speaks on a path forward to a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA:

  • “It has been years in the making. The last time we had a VAWA reauthorization was VAWA 2013, and so we are high past time to be addressing this very significant matter.”
  • “No compromise is perfect, but what has been developed through this framework is a proposal that will really help to prevent violence, to support our survivors, to hold perpetrators accountable.”
  • “We all want to get to that next step which is filing the legislation so that we can get it moving through this process. I look forward to doing that in the new year.”
  • “There is an ongoing public safety crisis in rural Alaska and across Indian Country, but we have an opportunity in this Congress to work together, across the aisle, to find solutions and restore justice.”
  • “We must let our women, children, and families who have been affected by devastating violence know – you are heard and we stand with you.”

Murkowski speaks to the disproportionate victimization of Native people:

  • “As a Senator for Alaska, this is an extraordinarily pressing issue in my home state.  As the Vice Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I can affirm that this is a very real issue in Native lands.” 
  • “By now, I would hope that every Senator understands the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, we refer to this as MMIW.  That’s why we passed Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, and I want to acknowledge my colleague who has been working this issue with us for so long—Senator Cortez Masto. I think we recognize we’ve made progress there, but to fully address the root causes of this crisis – the high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, the violent crime in many Native communities we have– we have an awful lot more to do.” 
  • “The rates of violence experienced by Alaska Natives are particularly horrific and statistics should shock us all. I repeat them a lot and they still shock me. According to a report prepared by the Indian Law and Order Commission, Alaska Native women are overrepresented – by nearly 250 percent – among female domestic violence victims.” 
  • “Just to put it into context here, a couple of years ago, an investigation that was conducted by the Anchorage Daily News determined that one in three Native communities in rural Alaska have no local law enforcement physically present, leaving Native women and children at greater risk of violence. Think about that for just a minute, to live in a community where there’s no one to turn to, no law enforcement presence to turn to. Maybe you’re able to share your story with a local health aide there, but that’s as far as you can go. Beyond that, hardly any Alaska Tribes, have the tools they need to address violence in their communities.” 

Murkowski speaks to provisions included in the framework agreement:

  • “I am proud to have authored text that will address the ongoing epidemic Alaska faces with violence, which has left long-lasting trauma for too many of our women, children, and families. We will not allow survivors and the needs of the most vulnerable to go unmet.”
  • “Our tribal title closes loopholes, builds upon the success of the 2013 reauthorization, and includes specific solutions to protect Alaska Native people. The tribal title will further restore, and improve, the implementation of the special tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit violent crimes in Native communities.  And it would do so by allowing Tribes who exercise this special jurisdiction to charge defendants with crimes that co-occur with domestic violence, such as violence against children or assault on law enforcement.”
  • “The tribal title includes an Alaska pilot program which builds on previous legislation I have introduced and will empower a limited number of Alaska Tribes to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes that occur in villages in Alaska.”
  • “This legislation will include a provision named in memory of an Alaskan, Breanna Moore.  Bree’s Law drives education initiatives to enable youth, parents, and advocates, to recognize, prevent, and mitigate teen dating violence.”
  • “Another provision addresses support services for victims. We know that it is difficult for victims to access the necessary medical forensic services in Alaska, so this provision will allow for evidence-collection and aid in a survivor’s journey to seeking justice.  Although we have deeply, troubling, statistics on sexual assault and domestic violence – Alaskans have also been at the frontlines of innovation, offering solutions.”