The proposed Violence Against Family Act was revived on the Navajo Nation on July 20. Navajo Nation First Lady Martha Shelly put the act in the hands of legislation co-sponsors, Delegates Katherine Benally and Joshua Butler, as part of the “Navajo Nation Stop Violence Against Women Day.”
Along with the first lady, Benally (Chilchinbeto/Dennehotso/Kayenta) and Butler (Tó Nanees Diz’) lead approximately 30 individuals in a walk from the Window Rock police station to the Council Chambers to protest domestic violence.
Shelly organized the march in support of the Violence Against Family Act, which awaits approval by the Navajo Nation Council. It was created to address the safety and protection of family members against violence. The legislation was developed by the Navajo Nation Advisory Council Against Domestic Violence, which is comprised of members from the Division of Social Services, Shiprock Battered Families and Homeless Shelter, Judicial Branch, Division of Public Safety, and the Public Defender’s Office.
Signs read: “Walk Against Domestic Violence” and “Walk Against Child Support.” The First Lady carried a sign that read, “Respect Women. Women Are Sacred.”
Upon reaching the chambers, the group gathered in front to speak on the issue of violence against women and family members.
Lorena Halwood, director of Amá Doo Álchíní’ Bighani Incorporated, said it was Stop Violence Against Women Day. “However, it shouldn’t be just today, it should be every day,” Halwood said.
She encouraged supporters to be proactive and make domestic violence prevention their responsibility by speaking out to bring awareness.
First Lady Martha Shelly said she is a wife, mother and grandmother. “The history of Violence Against Family Act legislation, Title 17, has been in amendment stage for the past 10 years,” Shelly said. “Domestic violence issues have brought us here today.”
She said advocating for traditional ways of life and restoring traditional teachings will restore peace and harmony within immediate clans, neighbors and families. “Now, I handoff the Violence Against Family Act to honorable Katherine Benally and Joshua Butler to ensure the process on the legislative side for approval,” Shelly said.
Benally said to a lot of people in tribal government, the Violence Against Family Act is a dangerous document to touch. “Even the Council kept sending it back,” Benally said.
She challenged her colleagues to approve the Act for immediate implementation, after more than a decade of indecision. “We can no longer turn the other cheek because that side is bruised too,” Benally said. “We waited too long for this. I want to thank Mrs. Genevieve Jackson for her efforts moving this legislation when she was a delegate,” she added.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly supports the legislation and said, “Let’s get this legislation through. It’s long overdue.”