The US Senate unanimously passed legislation introduced by Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) to allow Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence to access critical programs and resources provided by Congress through the Violence Against Women Act.
The reauthorization of the act — which was signed into law in March, 2022 — provides funding to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex-trafficking, dating violence and stalking. Sen. Hirono’s legislation amends the act to ensure Native Hawaiian organizations can actually serve the Native Hawaiian community.
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.
However, because of how the law was written, while Native Hawaiian organizations are able to apply for STOP grant funding, they cannot 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 the act.
“Today [Nov. 18], I’m proud that the Senate unanimously passed my legislation to amend VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] to ensure that Native Hawaiian organizations can actually serve the Native Hawaiian community,” Sen. Hirono said in a statement. “This bill will allow Native Hawaiian survivors to get the support they deserve, and will enable Native Hawaiian organizations to do even more in the fight to end sexual violence.”
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.
Senator Hirono has been a vocal advocate for the Native Hawaiian community and efforts to combat violence against Native Hawaiians. In August, she pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray to do more to protect the Native Hawaiian community from sexual exploitation at a full Judiciary Committee hearing and emphasized the need for the FBI to include the Native Hawaiian community in its efforts to address the missing and murdered Indigenous people crisis and violence against Native communities.
In May, she joined a resolution designating May 5th as National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Shortly before Senate passage, Senator Hirono spoke on the Senate floor in support of her legislation. The full text of her remarks is below and video is available here.