Feds aim to combat family violence on reservations

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Justice has outlined a legislative proposal that would stiffen federal sentences for certain domestic violence crimes in Indian Country and expand tribes' authority over non-Indians.

The agency is proposing fixes that it hopes Congress will consider in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Justice Department officials say crimes against American Indian women have reached epidemic rates. According to agency statistics, one-third of Indian women will be raped in their lifetime and nearly three out of five have been assaulted by their partner.

Justice officials want to expand the types of crimes over which the federal government has jurisdiction on Indian reservations. They say doing so would bring sentences for those crimes more in line with those faced by defendants in state courts who commit the same offenses.

The department also is seeking to let tribal courts enforce protection orders against non-Indians.