Here is the opinion in United States v. St. John.
Obviously this was an easy case. It does, however, foreshadow what will prove to be a very difficult element of VAWA special domestic violence prosecutions—the prosecuting tribe will have to prove that the defendant was in a sufficient relationship with the victim. In many cases where the relationship is more “complex” than married and cohabitating, will the victim have to testify in detail about their personal and sexual history? I’m sure that’s the unfortunate reality of sexual and domestic abuse prosecutions in general, but the danger of re-victimizing the victim looms ever present.
Perhaps the social workers and women’s advocates out there have some insight: is it best to recognize all wormen deserve uniform legal protections against abuse and violence, regardless of their prior relationship with the perpetrator; or is intimate partner domestic violence materially different for the purposes of prosecution, and separate statutes and procedures are necessary to see full justice done? That’s a real question—I don’t have a clue what the better approach is.
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