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Mon Oct 28, 2013, 03:59 PM

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Black and Native American Women

Black and Native American women experience the highest rates of violence. It has been largely researched and reported that the number one cause of death for both Black and Native women is murder. In the current mainstream conversation it’s important to have awareness of current rates of violence but also important to acknowledge the history of violence against Black and Native women. Violence against Black and Native women is historically a form of terror perpetrated by White men against both of our communities, and the sexual and physical abuse of Black and Native women was legal (1). Violence against Black and Native women was and is a pillar of both ongoing genocide and slavery. Both Black and Native American women face difficulties with the legal system. Many scholars, activists, and victim advocates have long discussed state and colonial violence against women of color, and the legal system reflects and reinforces that. This is directly a symptom of ongoing genocide and violence against our bodies not considered illegal.

It is difficult to be expected to report incidences of partner violence when police respond with dual arrests of victim and perpetrator as mandatory arrest laws have led to significant incarceration of brown and Black women who are victims of violence. There is also the threat of police officers assaulting us directly, even in the name of public safety (2). We live in a society that constantly tells us to just fight back or self- defend, but as cases like that of Marissa Alexander and as Project Nia points out, we have no selves to defend and are again criminalized (3). We also have to remember that in many places domestic violence is considered a crime against the State, not the person. This means the person who has been assaulted does not have the power to press charges—that decision depends on whether or not police considers your case worthy of building and whether the prosecutor considers charges worthy. In addition to domestic violence being a crime against the State, it is only a crime if the abuse fits the legal definition of violence. Law enforcement is predominantly looking for immediate signs of a physical attack, and in a lot of situations, signs of violence aren’t immediately available. With the idea that Black and Native women are “unrapeable” (courtesy of stereotypes and myths about sexualities) and are immune to violence (not considered women) complaints of domestic violence are taken even less seriously. It is very clear that Black and Native women are deemed not worthy of equal rights and protections and this is proven by lack of prosecution (and reporting) for women of color.

This year the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized but not without huge pushback from many of our senators and representatives. A piece of legislation that has always been easily reauthorized took over 500 days for our government to pass because of the new provisions in the bill for Native American women who reside on reservations. At one point during the VAWA floor debates Representative Gwen Moore invoked Sojourner Truth’s extraordinary “Ain’t I A Woman” speech to address Native women. She asked our Congress, “Don’t women on tribal lands deserve the constitutional right of equal protection and not to be raped, and battered, and beaten…ain’t they women?!” (4) She asked this, and many of our Congresspersons responded with a resounding “No.” (5)

The mainstream anti-violence movement is still heavily invested in protecting white-womanhood. This is evident by things like “teach men not to rape” without acknowledging racism and colonialism. There is no part in this education that says “teach men not to rape Native American women, because they’re most likely to be sexually assaulted than anyone else, particularly by [white] men.” (6) It is also evident that the anti-violence movement that is pushed by mainstream feminism is not concerned with Black and Native women’s historical or current relationship with the legal system. VDay and Eve Ensler (7) who are famously lauded as the leaders of the feminist anti-violence movement have decided that February 14, 2014 will be the global day to report your assault, as if Black and Native women can just simply do that. In May, Ensler stated, “We are asking women who have been attacked to file charges” at an event in Philadelphia. First of all, Pennsylvania (the state where she made this grand announcement) is a place where domestic violence is a crime against the State, and as mentioned earlier, this means you do not have the discretion to file charges, it is up to the prosecutor. Secondly, the constant push for criminalization as the only solution to violence demonstrates the total lack of concern for Black and Native women who are victims. But when you’re still predominantly concerned with protecting white-womanhood, these issues can be easily dismissed.


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Reply Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Black and Native American Women (Original post)
ismnotwasm Oct 2013 OP
discntnt_irny_srcsm Oct 2013 #1
ismnotwasm Oct 2013 #2

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Mon Oct 28, 2013, 05:04 PM

1. As I understand it...

...the passage of the VAWA earlier this year finally provides for tribal authorities to pursue non-tribal persons who've committed crimes on reservations. Prior to this, if I understand it right, non-tribal men who've raped a woman on a reservation and then left reservation were not targeted by any law enforcement agency since only tribal enforcement could act on crimes committed tribal land but had no authority once leaving the reservation.

A prime excuse for victimization has always been describing the victim as not a person. Nothing magic happened to any people when the 13th Amendment was passed. The law just caught up with reality. No one experienced any innate changes when the 19th Amendment was passed either. Again, the law caught up.

Until everyone is recognized as a full and equal person, injustice and crime will be biased towards women and minorities.

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #1)

Mon Oct 28, 2013, 05:26 PM

2. Exactly

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