Federal legislation passes to help Native Hawaiian survivors of sexual violence
Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence now will have access to critical programs and resources provided by Congress through the Violence Against Women Act.
The legislation, led by Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaiʻi and signed by President Biden, provides funding to Native Hawaiian survivors of all types of sexual and gender-based violence, including sexual assault, sex trafficking, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.
The legislation amends the Violence Against Women Act to ensure Native Hawaiian organizations are able to serve the Native Hawaiian community.
“Like other Native communities across the country, Native Hawaiians experience disproportionately high levels of sexual and gender-based violence,” Sen. Hirono said. “Despite this crisis, Native Hawaiian women have long been unjustly excluded from accessing much-needed resources for survivors provided through the Violence Against Women Act.
“This bill addresses this injustice and allows Native Hawaiian Organizations to better serve Native Hawaiians, and I’m glad the President has signed it into law. Now, Native Hawaiian organizations will have access to support and resources to serve the Native Hawaiian community and work towards eradicating sexual violence in our state.”
Native women across the country — including American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian women — experience disproportionately high levels of sexual violence.
The act includes Services, Training, Officers Prosecutors (STOP) grants to provide funding for eligible native-serving non-profits, including Native Hawaiian organizations, to help combat sexual violence and support survivors.
But due to an earlier drafting error in the law, while Native Hawaiian organizations were able to apply for STOP grant funding, they could not use the funds to actually serve the Native Hawaiian community. As a result, Native Hawaiian women have been unable to access critical resources included in VAWA.
According to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, more than two-thirds of sex trafficking victims in Hawaiʻi are Native Hawaiian women and girls, and 37% of reported child sex trafficking cases in Hawaiʻi are Native Hawaiian.
Recently, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women released the “Holoi a Nalo Wahine Oiwi” report, which further underlines the disproportionate impacts that sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and domestic violence have on Native Hawaiian women and girls.