For Deborah Parker, the sexual and physical abuse began when she was a toddler, and it happened repeatedly until the summer after third grade.
But she never reported it to police, believing they wouldn’t have bothered to investigate anyway.
Parker, the former vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state, did tell her story to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
I went into Senator Murray’s office and I told her that I was a victim of child sexual assault. She held my hand and said, ‘I’m going to help you.’
Deborah Parker, former vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes
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And when Congress decided to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, Murray said it would have never happened if Parker had not gone public with her story on Capitol Hill.
“I think Deborah Parker made the absolute difference at the absolute critical time, being here, standing up and making her personal story become the face of what this was about,” Murray said at the time. “It was an act of courage and it changed the whole debate.”
Parker is now featured in Murray’s second television advertisement, released this week.
“I went into Senator Murray’s office and I told her that I was a victim of child sexual assault. She held my hand and said ‘I’m going to help you,’ ’’ Parker says in the opening of the ad.
Murray is seeking a fifth term, favored to defeat Republican Chris Vance, the former chairman of the state’s GOP Party.
Under the reauthorized law, Congress gave Indian tribes new power to prosecute non-Indians in tribal courts for any crimes linked to domestic violence.
Parker and other tribal officials lobbied hard for the law in response to a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that tribes had no authority to try or punish non-Indians. The case involved a Washington state man whom the Suquamish Indian Tribe ordered to appear in tribal court after he was cited on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
The new law now allows tribes to try non-Indians for rape and other crimes involving domestic abuse.
Murray and other backers said the change was needed because too many local authorities didn’t want to investigate crimes committed on reservations.