Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) proposed legislation that was unanimously approved by the US Senate, enabling Native Hawaiian victims of gender-based violence to utilise vital services and tools made available by Congress through the Violence Against Women Act.
The act was reauthorized in March 2022 and now provides funds to victims of stalking, domestic abuse, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and sex crimes. To ensure that Native Hawaiian groups can assist the Native Hawaiian population, Sen. Hirono’s amendment changes the statute.
American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian women are among the many Native women who endure disproportionately high rates of sexual violence nationwide.
The act provides Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors (STOP) grants to give cash to qualified Native Hawaiian and other native-serving non-profits to help prevent sexual violence and support survivors.
Although Native Hawaiian organizations are permitted to apply for STOP grant cash due to the way the statute was drafted, they are not permitted to utilize the money to provide direct services to the Native Hawaiian population. Native Hawaiian women, therefore, have been unable to use important resources made available by the act.
Sen. Hirono said in a statement, “I’m proud that the Senate unanimously passed my legislation today [Nov. 18] to alter VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] to ensure that Native Hawaiian organisations can genuinely assist the Native Hawaiian community. “This law would enable Native Hawaiian organisations to do even more in the fight to stop sexual violence, allowing Native Hawaiian survivors to obtain the support they need.”
More than two-thirds of sex trafficking victims in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian women and girls, and 37% of recorded child sex trafficking cases in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian, according to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The Native Hawaiian community and initiatives to stop violence against Native Hawaiians have received strong support from Senator Hirono. In an open hearing before the Judiciary Committee in August, she pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray to take additional steps to safeguard the Native Hawaiian community against sexual exploitation and emphasised the need for the FBI to involve the Native Hawaiian community in its efforts to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people and violence against Native communities.
She participated in the movement to have May 5 recognised as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in May.
Senator Hirono spoke on the Senate floor in favor of her proposal just before it was passed by the Senate.