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Opinion: Senate Republicans wrong on Violence Against Women Act

Kent Vashaw

Kent VashawThe Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, according to The New York Times. And although it didn’t encounter major resistance, it did have a few prominent detractors. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, both possible contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, were among the 22 Republican senators who voted against the bill.

Most of the bill is completely uncontroversial. It provides help and support to women who are the victims of domestic abuse in the form of legal aid and other numerous victim assistance programs, as well as establishing a federal rape shield law.

Part of the controversial section that alienates hardcore conservatives is a new provision that provides help for Native American women who are victimized by non-Native American men.

As the law currently stands, tribal authorities cannot try non-Native Americans and local police can’t protect Native Americans if they are victimized on Native American land, so the victims of this kind of domestic abuse often falls through the legal cracks.

The Violence Against Women Act allows for tribal authorities to pursue non-Native Americans to help with this kind of problem. And that’s the problem. To these Republicans, it is an “unconstitutional” expansion of tribal power, in their eyes.

I can understand this position in a broad, general sense. If an American citizen is tried in a tribal court, he might not receive the full rights that he would in an American court.

So these Republicans, to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they aren’t pro-violence against women, just want to make sure that Americans receive their rights. Which is fine in concept, but the problem is that in this case, “making sure Americans receive their rights,” ultimately means that women who are violently abused won’t have any way to seek justice, and to me, that’s unacceptable.

Republicans should support the bill on more cynical grounds, too. Since the loss of the 2012 elections, many GOP politicians have lamented the lack of support among women and minorities, compelling Republicans to try and reach out to these groups. And yet, here are prominent Republicans opposing a bill that specifically helps minority women victims.

How will that affect Republicans in 2014? Or even in 2016?

Vashaw, a sophomore creative writing and mathematics major from Apex, is an opinion writer

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