In Support of the Violence Against Women Act

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mr. President, in 1994, and again in 2000 and 2005, the Senate took a strong, bipartisan stance against acts of domestic and sexual violence that alter the lives of far too many American families, and especially American women. With the passage and later reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, Congress provided invaluable aid – sometimes life-saving aid – to hundreds of thousands of Americans. There is no reason we cannot reauthorize this legislation again this year with overwhelming bipartisan support, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to support this bill.

Since its passage, the Violence Against Women Act has provided comprehensive support to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and to the federal, state and local agencies that confront this scourge every day. The original legislation passed in 1994 laid a strong foundation that helped establish a coordinated response to violence against women. Reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005 strengthened that foundation. Today, through violence prevention grants, services to survivors of sexual assault, legal assistance, transitional housing grants, assistance to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors and other efforts, VAWA has made an enormous difference.

Deaths due to violent acts by intimate partners have decreased significantly. And according to a cost-benefit analysis, VAWA saved nearly $15 billion in its first six years of existence by avoiding the high social costs violence against women exacts on our nation. William T. Robinson, the president of the American Bar Association, calls VAWA “the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in this country.”

For all its successes, VAWA has not ended our responsibility to act against violence. Domestic and sexual violence remain far too common for us to abandon our efforts. And just as we have in past authorizations, the legislation before us would strengthen our ability to confront violence in new ways.

Now, some of these new efforts have become controversial. Some of our Republican colleagues have questioned provisions that extend VAWA’s anti-discrimination protections. Some have questioned extending the umbrella of this nation’s protections to immigrants. And some have questioned provisions designed to protect Native American women from sexual and domestic violence. In fact, some of my colleagues have denied that these provisions are necessary, and some have criticized them as “political.”

I certainly do not consider extending the successful protections of this legislation to all Americans as “political.” I consider it common sense. I consider it our duty to help these survivors get the assistance they need. I strongly support these important extensions of the act’s protections, and I encourage my colleagues to support them as well.

This is not a partisan issue. I hope the Senate can, as it has in the past, send a strong bipartisan message of support to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. And I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will quickly take up and approve legislation that will make an enormous positive difference in the lives of so many.