We are experiencing an epidemic of violence in our tribal communities: 80 percent of Native men and women experience violence, 34 percent of Native women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, and murder is the third-leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women. Native women and girls are also disproportionately likely to become victims of sex trafficking. We don’t even have a full picture of the number of women who go missing each year because the databases that hold the statistics of these cases are outdated, underreported, and lack coordination between law enforcement agencies.
The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women is wreaking havoc on our families and communities. As the father of six children, including three young girls, these statistics are horrifying. We cannot stand by and let it continue.
President Trump is the first president to formally recognize the crisis and take action to combat it. Last year, he signed an executive order to establish the Operation Lady Justice Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Task Force has opened six cold case offices across the country and has developed protocols for how to handle missing and murdered cases in Indian Country. This is an extraordinary step in the right direction.
Earlier this month, President signed two bills I cosponsored into law which will build on the work the Task Force has done. Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, which is the first piece of legislation to be introduced by four Native American Members of Congress, will give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to address the crisis and will help prevent our sisters from becoming a statistic.
Our priority must be to protect native women and children and all parties have to work together to end this epidemic of violence. I applaud President Trump for his commitment to ending this crisis and I am proud to stand with him in fighting for Indian Country.