By Erica Laster                                                                                                                       Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

CHEROKEE, United States – On Friday, Rashica Manjoo stopped in Cherokee, North Carolina to discuss action to be taken against those that physically and sexually assault Native American women. As the special rapporteur for the United Nations on violence against women, Manjoo plans to report her findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Matilda Black Bear discusses her experience with domestic violence and the unavailability of support for women.  Photo courtesy of Indian Law.
Matilda Black Bear discusses her experience with domestic violence and the unavailability of support for women. Photo courtesy of Indian Law.

According to the Department of Justice, one out of every three Native American women are raped during their lifetime.  Three of four will become the victims of a physical assault.

Matilda Black Bear, a 64-year-old Cherokee native, is more than familiar with violence against women.  Over 30 years ago at the age of 26, Matilda entered into a relationship with a man that quickly turned violent.  “In the ’70s there were no services for victims, let alone any laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” recalls Tillie. “I went to the police and to the judges and they didn’t know what to do with me.”

The Indian Civil Rights Act limits tribal courts sentencing authority over Indians who have been accused of sexual and domestic violence against women.  Further, non-Indians are protected from sentencing by Indian Nations which are prohibited from exercising jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders.

Terri Henry, Councilwoman for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians believes, “The right to be safe and live free from violence is a human right that many in this country take for granted—but not Native women, who are beaten and raped at rates higher than any other population of women in the United States.”

Advocates have expressed the need to push for greater jurisdiction, services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, funding and federal support. 

This past Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the formation of the Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force.  In an attempt to change the rates at which Native American women experience violence in their communities, the Task Force has been directed to complete a trial manual and discuss “best practices” for prosecuting those accused of violence against women in Indian Country.

Holder stated that, “The creation of the Violence Against Women Tribal Prosecution Task Force has been a priority for me since my visit with tribal leaders last year, and I believe it is a critical step in our work to improve public safety and strengthen coordination and collaboration concerning prosecution strategies with tribal communities.”

Citizen-Times – UN Studies Domestic Violence in Cherokee – 29 January 2011

Indian Law – UN Expert Investigates Violence Against Indian Women – 28 January 2011

Cherokee One Feather – DOJ Attempting to Combat Violence Against Indian Women – 25 January 2011

Author: Impunity Watch Archive