WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: Tribal

Abuse in Tribal Communities

Updated: 
May 23, 2019

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

These are some things you may want to consider after you have been granted a tribal order of protection. Depending on what you think is safest in your situation, you may do any or all of the following:

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the tribal order of protection as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

You may also wish to make a safety plan. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many batterers obey orders of protection, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips.

Is my tribal protection order valid outside of the reservation? And if I have a protection order by the state court, is it valid on the reservation?

Under most circumstances, tribal protection orders (and orders issued by state courts) are valid in all 50 states, Washington D.C., in all U.S. territories, and on all tribal lands.1 Tribal protection orders may be enforceable in any state or territory including on other tribal lands. If you move out of the area where your protection order was granted, you may want to contact the clerk of courts in your area or talk to a lawyer for information about how an order that was issued by a tribe/pueblo or Alaskan village can be enforced.

118 U.S.C. §2265(a)

What happens if the abuser violates the tribal protection order?

If the abuser violates your tribal protection order anywhere, even outside of the Indian territory, you can report it to the police.1 A tribal court or a state court has the power to punish or prosecute the abuser. Depending upon the law where the violation took place, some police departments may immediately arrest the abuser for the violation of the protection order.

125 U.S.C.A. § 1304(b)(2)(A)

If the abuser is a non-Indian, can a tribal court enforce a protection order?

Tribes have the ability to enforce a protection order. In addition, tribes can investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence non-Indians who commit domestic violence against Indian spouses or dating partners or violate a protection order in Indian country under VAWA’s special domestic violence jurisdiction. The law requires that the non-Indian have the following connections with the Indian victim and Indian community:

  • s/he lives in the Indian country of the participating tribe;
  • s/he is employed in the Indian country of the participating tribe; or
  • s/he is the spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of:
    • a member of the participating tribe; or
    • an Indian who resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe.1

You can find more information about VAWA’s special domestic violence jurisdiction on the National Congress of American Indians website.

1 25 U.S.C.A. § 1304(b)(4)(B), (c)

Is there anything I can do to protect myself if I am not eligible for a tribal protection order?

If you are not eligible for a tribal protection order, you may still be eligible for a restraining order from a state court. You can read more about restraining orders in your state in our Domestic Violence Restraining Orders section.

Whether or not you are eligible for a tribal protection order or a state-court order, you should consider making a safety plan to help keep you and your family safe. Please see our Safety Tips page for ideas. If you are not safe at home, you might try staying with a friend, family member, or at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. You can connect with an advocate at a local domestic violence program for additional help, whether it’s to make a safety plan or to get support and counseling.