An Indian woman is two-and-a-half times more likely than any other American woman to be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Nevertheless, because of a confusing tangle of jurisdictional rules, she is four times less likely to see her assailant arrested. She is even less likely to see him stand trial. Because jurisdiction over most sexual assaults is vested in the federal government, Indian tribes are not allowed to arrest or prosecute most of the suspects who commit sexual assaults on tribal lands. Consequently, tribal lands have become safe havens for sexual predators, who can commit their offenses with impunity and with little fear of prosecution.
This article proposes that federal jurisdiction prevents effective law enforcement on Indian reservations and leaves Indian women at a greater risk of sexual assault. While the recently passed Tribal Law and Order Act seeks to improve reservation law enforcement, it fails to provide meaningful reform because it perpetuates the current law enforcement scheme that leaves Indian women vulnerable to sexual assault. Remote federal officials are not in the best position—geographically, politically, or culturally—to police reservation lands. Instead, Congress needs to reassess tribal jurisdiction, permitting tribes to arrest and prosecute suspects who commit sexual assaults on tribal lands. For too long, tribes have been left powerless to defend their own people against predators who enter reservation lands and commit unspeakable violence against tribal citizens. At the heart of sovereignty is the responsibility of government to protect its citizens. It is time to permit tribes to rise to this responsibility.
- sexual assault,
- Indian Country,
- Indian women,
- law enforcement,
- tribal law and order
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/suzianne_painter_thorne/2/