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Thu May 17, 2012, 04:52 PM

Battered Indian Tribal Women Caught in Legal Limbo

Spousal abuse would land the perpetrator in jail anywhere in the country. But on some Indian reservations U.S. laws give tribal police no jurisdiction over non-tribal abusers. States have no jurisdiction on tribal lands.

As a result, abused women go unprotected. Legislation to fix the problem has passed both houses of Congress, but in differing forms. Until the two sides in Washington can find agreement, battered women on tribal lands will remain in a legal limbo and their abusers know it.

"He started flaunting it; what are you going to do? Who's going to arrest me? I dare you to call the police. I'll call the police for you. And he did," said a 45-year-old woman who asked to remain anonymous out of concerns for her safety.

Two days after her wedding the southern-Indian tribal member was punched in the face by her new husband. She was on her way to her mother's house and he didn't want her to go.

"I tried to push him away and in that very minute he snapped… he punched me. And I can remember his hands in my hair, and in the gravel, and a lot of blood that came from my nose or my lip," she said.

She was a six-generation tribal member; her husband, an Anglo from a city nearby. More than 50 percent of native women have non-Indian husbands.

Like so many battered woman it took her two months to accept that something was wrong and go for help. But when she did, her pleas for protection and safety were met with silence from the authorities.


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