O’Halleran Introduces Two Bipartisan Bills to Address Domestic Violence, Support Survivors

April 21, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, introduced two bipartisan bills to address domestic violence and provide support for survivors in tribal communities.

With Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK-04), O’Halleran re-introduced the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act (NYTOPA): bipartisan legislation that ensures children and law enforcement officials in tribal communities are protected in instances of domestic violence.

Federal data indicates that over 55 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, at far higher rates than the national average. Of those survivors, 97 percent reported being victimized by a non-Indian perpetrator. Currently, tribes can convict non-Indian perpetrators of protection order violations, domestic violence, and dating violence. However, under current law, children of survivors and law enforcement who risk their lives to save victims are not protected.

The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act extends current protections to children and law enforcement involved in domestic violence incidents on tribal lands.

“As a former police officer, I saw firsthand the devastating impacts of domestic violence on survivors and children, and the danger faced by law enforcement officers when responding to these violent incidents,” said O’Halleran. “I am proud to re-introduce this critical legislation to provide communities on tribal lands with the tools they need to protect children and first responders, and to bring those who perpetrate this kind of violence to justice.”

“In many cases of domestic violence in Indian Country, children, tribal officers, and those threatened with domestic violence are often not protected,” said Cole. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that closes several loopholes in the Violence Against Women Act. Indeed, the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act will be critical in ensuring no victims slip through the cracks.”

View text of the legislation HERE.

With Cole and Congressman Don Young (R-AK-At Large), O’Halleran also re-introduced the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act—a bipartisan bill to provide legal, medical, and counseling resources to women and children in tribal communities who are survivors of domestic violence.

American Indian and Alaska Native communities face some of the highest victimization rates in the country. However, it is estimated that less than 0.7 percent of the Crime Victim’s Fund (CVF) established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) reaches tribes.

“With more women and children at home with their abusers over this past year, the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated many challenges already faced by survivors of domestic violence, and these impacts have disproportionately affected Native women,” said O’Halleran. “I’m proud to re-introduce my bipartisan SURVIVE Act to ensure that survivors in tribal communities can access the legal, medical, and counseling resources they need to stay safe and rebuild their lives.”

The SURVIVE Act creates a tribal grant program within the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and requires a 5 percent allocation from the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) to be provided to Indian tribes.

"Countless families have faced the pervasive tragedy of domestic violence, and these numbers have only increased during the pandemic,” said Young. “The cycle of domestic violence hits our Indigenous communities especially hard. All too often, a lack of law enforcement, counseling, and legal services compounds the devastation of domestic violence in Alaska Native villages, making it even more challenging to leave violent situations. I am proud to help introduce the SURVIVE Act, which takes action to help women and children in tribal communities who have survived domestic violence. Through this legislation, we can ensure that survivors across our nation have the resources necessary to rebuild their lives. I ask my friends on both sides of the aisle to support this legislation and help get it across the finish line."

“As a group that faces some of the highest rates of crime, there is certainly an urgent need to provide resources for Native Americans and Alaska Native victims,” said Cole. “As we continue to work in lowering these tragic crime rates, it is critical that we also provide these victims of crimes access to victim assistance programs and services, as well as privacy protection and confidentiality services specific to these communities. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the SURVIVE Act that would allocate funds for these services in Indian Country.”

View text of the legislation HERE.