OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Improving Federal Agency Response to Sexual Violence in Indian Country
Geri Wisner, Sarah Collins  -  2015/11/17
What recent progress has been made to proscute nontribal individuals for sexual assault on reservations?
1.  Geri Wisner
 Tribes have made some progress in expanding the scope of their criminal jurisdiction over nonIndians based on the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. If a tribe adopts the TLOA and follows a restrictive guidelines set out there and within the VOWA, there is limited jurisdiction for tribes to prosecute nonIndian individuals. Nontribal individuals, meaning Indians who are members of another federally recognized tribe, may be subject to the criminal jurisdiction of all federally recognized tribes.
2.  Sarah Collins
 We utilize the Major Crimes Act (18 USC 1153) to prosecute Indian persons for violations of the same offenses as we would non-Indians (with Indian victims). Again, the offense must be in Indian Country for the federal court to have jurisdiction.
3.  Sarah Collins
 We regularly prosecute non-Indian offenders for the sex offenses against Indian victims for crimes listed in 18 USC sections 2241-2244 (all of the major felony sex offenses that we could prosecute an Indian perpetrator based on jurisdiction under 18 USC 1153). The offense also has to have occurred in Indian Country. If both the victim and the offender are non-Indian then the state has exclusive jurisdiction.
4.  Megan
 And as a follow-up, what about successes in prosecution indians?
When will the AI/AN Sane-Sart Program Initiative Guidelines be available?
1.  Sarah Collins
 Although I am not aware of a date-certain, I am hopful that with AG Lynch's guidance and support, the individual Districts who are involved in SANE/SARTs in Indian Country will begin the process of tailoring the guidelines to fit the needs of the victims in their respective Districts.
Why is the terminology "Indian" and "Indian Country" used in federal prosecutions?
1.  Sarah Collins
 18 USC 1153, 1152 and 1151 dictate our usage of the terms "Indian" persons and "Indian" country. I realize that some people are offended by the terminology but we are stuck with it for now. An "Indian" for the purpose of the federal statutes are people with some degree of Indian blood from a tribe within the United States. We typically prove Indian status through Tribal enrollment records, but there are other ways as well. "Indian Country" is all land within the limits of any Indian reservation in the US, including rights of way and all dependent Indian communities and all Indian allotments.
How does the use of MDTs help in the success in SANE/SART?
1.  Sarah Collins
 As a follow-up thought - it is of vital importance that tribal prosecutors and tribal investigators/officers are present at MDT/SANE/SARTs because it is necessary for them to be involved at the onset of cases so all parties can have a voice in how to best handle the case and who should do what with the case in order to make sure we are all best serving victims of crime.
2.  Geri Wisner
 Tribes utilizing a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases have a much better success rate in terms of convictions and case outcome. However, the MDT has a victim centered approach which focuses on what is best for the victim which in turn becomes what is best for the case. The MDT utilizes medical and mental health professionals and advocates who can assist with much more than just the victim and suspect perspective, but also encompasses the family unit.
3.  Sarah Collins
 Many times the same persons involved in MDTs (Multidisciplinary Teams) will also be the members of the SANE/SARTs. For success in any team, it is vital that the "players," for lack of a better term, know each other, know each others' roles/duties/obligations and stay in contact and communication with one another. The more often the same people work together, the better to ensure the knowledge, contact and communication occur. MDTs have been around a long time and if the process of the MDT is working, those members can help to make the SANE/SARTs more effective at serving victims.
How can staffing impact successful prosecution of sexual assault in Indian Country
1.  Geri Wisner
 Handling sexual assault cases is difficult and demanding. There many complications with the investigation and prosecution of these types of cases and the jurisdictional complexities that come with Indian Country crimes further complicates the landscape. Professionals who recognize the importance of hard work, cooperation and diligence are good for this line of work. It is imperative that Indian Country, in the context of history and historical trauma, should be taken into consideration. This is true for both the general sense of Indian Country but more relevant and important is the specific tribal history and the relationship with the federal and state agencies.
2.  Sarah Collins
 I think staffing decisions have some of the most prominant impact on the success or failure of prosecutions of sex offenses in Indian Country. At the inital hiring stage, it is of vital importance that the applicant be highly qualified and really WANT to be an Indian Country AUSA or Agent. Often I have seen people use such assignments as stepping-stones to other locations/assignments and the investigations and prosecutions then suffer. I have also dealt with persons unqualified for the positions; which has an equally detrimental effect. The other important aspect is that there must be training in the beginning of the AUSA/Agents Indian Country service and ongoing throughout, in order to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
Are there studies or research you can point to on the percent of Indian woment who don't report sexual assault?
1.  Geri Wisner
 As a follow up, it should be emphasized that tribal and federal MDT cooperation between the tribal prosecutor and federal prosecutor, the federal prosecutors, the tribal police and the FBI, the tribal and federal victim advocates, etc. is extremely important. Not only is it necessary for the tribal and federal MDT to work well among themselves, but it is imperative that they work together and cooperatively to address these crimes.
2.  Sarah Collins
 http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/pages/rape-notification.aspx - is one article that I found interesting on this topic. This is a hard question to answer because it is a difficult thing to get an accurate statistic which proves a negative. However, it is a tipic of such importance that many have attempted to get accurate numbers. You also might want to see: http://www.nij.gov/pages/statistics.aspx?tags=Victim
3.  Geri Wisner
 I am not immediately aware of such studies or research. However, I do know that there are many reasons Indian women do not report sexual assault. For many victims, the perpetrator is often the money maker and has complete control of finances and other resources necessary for the family. As many other studies have shown, the victim is often related to the perpetrator and believes they will not be believed if the crime is reported. In Indian Country, due to the numerous crimes that are not investigated or matters brought to justice, Indian victims often feel vulnerable and anticipate retaliation.
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