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Oil Patch gets grants for fighting violence against women: Associate attorney general announces $3M for communities

On a visit to western North Dakota, Associate U.S. Attorney General Tony West announced $3 million in funding for tackling Oil Patch violence against women, especially on reservations.

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The funding is twofold — the $2.1 million will take an on-the-ground approach for service providers in the Bakken.

“It couldn’t come at a more important time for these providers,” West said. “We were hearing stories about how women have to today be turned away from shelters, returned to the circumstances of their abuse because there isn’t capacity.”

For women fleeing abusive relationships and in transition, the lack of affordable housing and of housing causes longer-term problems when the women can’t find a new place to live. The average stay at a shelter is stretching from one month to six to nine months, creating more problems with capacity at the shelters, West said, especially when the women have children.

“No woman should have to face an impossible choice of going back to her abuser or being out in the street simply because we don’t have the resources to meet the need,” West said.

With native women the population most likely to experience violence, the $900,000 will pay for two tribal special assistant U.S. attorneys to prosecute violent offenders against women. The prosecutors are trained for tribal courts but also cross-designated so they can prosecute in federal courts, West said. The money will fund the positions for three years — one attorney at Fort Peck reservation in Montana and one at Fort Berthold.

The money also covers transportation costs for the attorneys — with the “challenges of traveling through very rural areas and the costs attendant to that,” West said.

West said he plans to bring the perspective he got on his trip to the Patch back to Washington. He said there’ve been many interagency meetings at the White House to figure out how to tackle the growth from a federal, collaborative standpoint.

West met with Dickinson police chief Dustin Dassinger, local Fish and Wildlife leadership and planned to tour the Bakken later Friday afternoon.

He also participated on a roundtable with local FBI, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the North Dakota U.S. Attorney’s office, U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said. All were involved in Operation Pipecleaner, which led to the arrests of 22 for drug trafficking.

Citing drug rings and gang activity once unheard of in the region, West said, “What you’re seeing in western North Dakota is big city urban crime that you’d see in Los Angeles and you’re seeing it here and the question is, how do you respond effectively to that change because it’s been rapid?”