(BIVN) – Federal legislation to allow Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence to access critical programs and resources through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate.
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D, Hawaiʻi), makes a “very simple technical fix” to VAWA, allowing Native Hawaiian organizations to use Services, Training, Officers Prosecutors (STOP) grants “to actually serve the Native Hawaiian community.” The law, as previously written, prevented Native Hawaiian women from accessing critical VAWA resources, Hirono explained.
Senator Hirono spoke on the Senate floor in support of her legislation. From the transcript:
Senator Rounds, I do not object to the substance of your bill. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I am very much aware of the contributions made to our country by Native Americans, and certainly the Native American veterans.
However, for a long time, I have been trying to get a very simple technical fix to the Violence Against Women Act that would allow Native Hawaiian organizations to serve Native Hawaiian women.
As we all know, VAWA provides support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, dating violence and stalking.
Tragically, Native women across the country—that would be Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian, American Indian women—experience disproportionately higher levels of sexual violence. Which is why VAWA includes STOP grants to provide funding for eligible Native organizations—non-profits—including Native Hawaiian organizations to serve Native women.
However, in spite of the fact that Native Hawaiian women are represented among the disproportionately high number of survivors of gender-based violence and sex-trafficking, and despite the fact that Native Hawaiian organizations are eligible for these grants, because of a drafting oversight, these Native Hawaiian organizations eligible for these grants cannot serve the Native Hawaiian community.
It would likely shock many of my colleagues to learn about the gender-based violence and sex-trafficking numbers in Hawaii. And of sex trafficking survivors in Hawaii—over 70 percent are Native Hawaiian women and girls. But yet, Native Hawaiian organizations cannot actually serve Native Hawaiian women through these grants.
By passing this simple technical fix, we can ensure that Native Hawaiian women can access the benefits and support included in this critical Violence Against Women Act.