Floor Updates

Mikulski, Boxer, Cantwell, Klobuchar, Schumer, Hutchison

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 26 2012

11:42 AM

Senator Mikulski: (10:37 AM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Violence Against Women Act authorizes two federal programs for domestic and sexual violence in our communities. The Department of Justice and the Department of Human Services. The stop grants is the largest national grant program in the Justice Department. Roughly half of all violence against women funds go to these stop grants, and they go to every community. And what is it they do? They coordinate community approaches to end violence and sexual assault. They fund victims services like shelters in the toll-free crisis hotline. And they fund legal assistance to victims to be able to get court orders to be able to protect themselves from the abuser or from the stalker. It also includes training for police officers, prosecutors and judges, so they know how to do a good job. Victims of child abuse grants, something that I'm very familiar with, having been a child abuse social worker. And also important services in terms of rape prevention programs. This is a great bill, and it meets a compelling human need. Since the original Biden legislation, over one million women have called that hotline that were desperate, that were fearful for their life. And when they called that number, they didn't get a busy signal. They didn't get hung up on. They got help. And I know that it saved lives. One in four women will be victims of domestic violence during her lifetime. One in four. 16 million children are exposed to domestic violence. And also one in six women have experienced attempted or completed rape. And even men now are the subject of rape."

Senator Boxer: (10:49 AM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "For some reason our Republican friends, although we have 61 people as cosponsors, are slowing it down and it seems to me very clear that if they didn't have objections, we could pass this by voice vote. Three women are killed by their abusive partners every single day. I'm going to repeat that. Three women today will be killed by their abusive husbands, and for every woman who is killed, there are nine more who are beaten or injured, every single day. In the name of the three women who will be killed today - we should pass this unanimously, unanimously. Now, has the Violence Against Women Act worked? Yes. Incidences of domestic violence have decreased by 63% since we passed that law. Why on earth when three women are killed every day and nine women are injured sometimes to the point of almost losing their life, why on earth when a bill has brought down domestic violence by 53% would there be objection? There is no reason, no reason whatsoever. You go back to the votes on the bill in the past. Overwhelming votes every time. 47 attorney generals signed a bipartisan letter supporting the reauthorization."

Senator Cantwell: (10:57 AM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "I come here to stand with my colleagues who are here, the women of the senate, to say that we are standing up for women across America. We want the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and today we want to tell victims of domestic violence that they are not alone. We have to make sure that we are giving the tools to local governments, to law enforcement, the things that they need to protect the victims of domestic violence. Today we're here with a clear message to the victims of domestic violence, and that is we will stand with you. And that we haven't forgotten and we're not going to let this bill be bogged down in political fighting, but we are going to make sure that we continue to move ahead. We already have the support of 61 senators, many attorney generals and countless law enforcement officials who are working to make sure that these victims have an advocate. But we know that there is still opposition that remains, so I want to make sure we address those concerns today ... People like Carissa, one of my constituents who was in an abusive relationship. She was allowed to flee with her then-three-year-old daughter in 1998. She joined me to highlight the fact that the programs, the shelter and the help in starting a new life helped her escaped that life of abuse ... I sponsored the International Board Act. It empowered foreign-born fee an says to learn if their spouse had a history of violent crime and it now has become part of the reauthorization that is this bill today. It includes enhancements that require marriage broker agencies to provide foreign fee and says with a record of any domestic violence that they are potential spouse might have engaged in. That way we can stop the abuse before it begins. Opponents who say that the Violence Against Women Act would create immigration fraud and give funds to those who don't need it should consider the story of Anastasia King and Sue Susanna. Their lives could have been saved had the provisions been in place. We should not deny immigrant women or trafficking resources the resources to prevent abuse. Nor should we create barriers to them to get the safety they need. That's why we they'd to pass the violence against women act. And we also need make it clear that Native American women will receive protection."

Senator Klobuchar: (11:06 AM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Many of us have worked to build upon the many important improvements that the past two VAWA reauthorizations have made in reducing violence. And I would note many things were added, including one of the issues here today, the new visas were added on a bipartisan basis in the 2000 reauthorization. Many of the issues regarding American Indian women were considered in the past. So we are simply building on the past bills and we have worked with our Republican cosponsors to make sure that there was a general agreement on any additions that were made to the bill, and they were all made for very good reasons. And as you've heard today, to help women who need the help. But despite these improvements that we've seen in the numbers, make no mistake about it, violence against women is still a problem. A recent survey by the National Network to end domestic violence helps us to illustrate both the progress we've made as well as the work that's still left to be done. On just one day last year - just look at this as a benchmark - one day last year, September 15, in the state of Minnesota, 54 Minnesota domestic violence programs reported serving 735 victims in emergency shelters or transitional housing and 670 adults and children through the individual counseling, legal advocacy, or children's support group. That's a total of 1,405 victims in one day in one state. On that same day, there were 807 calls to domestic violence hot-lines which provide emergency support, information safety planning, and resources for victims in danger. That works out to 33 calls per hour in a 24-hour period, and that is in one state of the 50 states. Because of the Violence Against Women Act, on just one day last year, all of these victims were able to get access to services that theymay not have been able to get before VAWA. But one other number from that survey caught my eye. In just one day, 315 requests for services were unmet. 83% of those unmet requests were for housing. And what's the reason for these unmet requests? The Minnesota organizations reported that they didn't have enough things like staff, beds, translators or other specialized services. Think about that. In just one day in one state, 315 people were unable to get the help that they need. And that means we still have work to do."

Senator Schumer: (11:14 AM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "The so-called alternative would take Violence Against Women and replace it with a different program. This program has worked. It needs improvements. That's why we're here, but it has worked. You don't start over for ideological or political reasons. Most notably in the act, for my colleagues across the aisle, the word women has been taken out of the program that forms the cornerstone of the Violence Against Women Act, and the word has been replaced with victim. Now, no one here would argue against the principle that all violent crimes, all domestic crimes are tragic and serious, but this so-called substitute negates centuries of women's experience that proves that violence against women, especially violence caused by spouses and partners and family members, is a uniquely pernicious and entrenched practice, one that hasn't even always been illegal. There was never a rule of thumb that governed the size of the stick that wives could use to beat their husbands, and that sums it up in a nutshell. Men were never banned from juries. Men were never not on police forces and prosecutor's offices. It is this horrific and shameful history to which we responded in 1994 when we first crafted the Violence Against Women Act. And there is another point to be made here. Anyone who respects the proper role of the federal government in fighting crime should recognize that it is entirely rational for us to limit our police powers and funding in this area to a particular type of crime, one that has civil rights implications, one that has been hard for states and localities to prosecute without special support and training. That's why there is no substitute for the Violence Against Women Act. Now, there are a number of priorities that have been included in the bill that I've cared a lot about, making sure that sexual assault victims do not have to pay for their own forensic exams. The last reauthorization took some steps. We go further. Second, VAWA having contributed immensely to our understanding and prevention of domestic violence has been reinvigorated and retargeted at sexual assault crimes. Many aspects of the new bill will improve the law enforcement training and victim support. Third, it expands programs that are available to victims in law enforcement in rural and underserved areas. Extremely important to upstate New York which has one of the largest rural populations in the country. And fourth, as I mentioned, Senator Leahy and Senator Crapo should be applauded for including more overnight and accountability for programs in this bill and find a way to trim the authorization by 20% by consolidating programs where it makes sense."

Senator Klobuchar: (11:21 AM)
  • Honored the late-Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila Wellstone, for their work on domestic violence issues.

Senator Hutchison: (11:27 AM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "I want to say clearly today that the amendment that I am producing with Senator Grassley and many other cosponsors builds on the sentiments that the Chairman expressed yesterday. It should seem very simple to me that what the Republicans are asking is that our substitute, which has many cosponsors because we believe it improves on the underlying bill, and one amendment by Senator Cornyn that adds much to the bill, helping to get the backlog of these rape kits put forward so that we can stop people who are perpetrating these crimes from being out loose, doing it again when we have the proof that has not been yet tested because of the backlog, there are some things that can be done to improve this bill. Senator Mikulski and I worked together on funding the Justice Department, and in our bill, we do add to the capability for the Justice Department to give the grants that would make that backlog smaller. Senator Cornyn's amendment even improves on that. So what's not to like about two other approaches that would add to this bill so that we can get this bill passed or one version of it, go to conference with the House and really address the issues. No one is arguing that we shouldn't pass a Violence Against Women Act. The question is can we make it even better? And if so, why not? Why not have the kind of debate that we have on this floor that does that? So I think it's important that we produce the best possible product Our bill strengthens the U.S. Marshals Service's capabilities to attach to wherever these thugs might be who are doing these heinous crimes and by also add our bill has a strengthening of the rape kit issue that Senator Cornyn is trying to get able to offer as an amendment to Senator Leahy's bill, the majority bill. Senator Cornyn has been trying for a long time to strengthen the ability to stop this backlog and let the rape kits tested so that the perpetrators, we have the evidence to get them so they will not commit these crimes against other innocent people."