A U.S. Justice Department official says there are significant gaps in a federal law aimed at combatting violence against Native American women.

The 2013 Violence Against Women Act allows tribes authority to prosecute non-Native Americans in domestic violence and dating cases within their jurisdictions that involves assaults on women. But under the law, tribal authorities don't have the power to charge a non-Native American who assaults or batters children, even in cases where the abuse went hand-in-hand with an attack on the child's mother.

Tracy Toulou, the director of the department's Office of Tribal Justice, says the law should be expanded to include protections for children, and other measures.

His comments came during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday in Washington for several bills, including one to protect Native American children.