SHAHEEN URGES SENATE TO PASS BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO FIGHT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Joins colleagues on Senate floor to speak about Violence Against Women ActMarch 15, 2012
Shaheen was joined on the Senate floor by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Hagan (D-NC).
In addition to the women speaking, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are cosponsors of the legislation.
The Violence Against Women Act was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) last year and passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. It has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since it was first enacted in 1994.
Below are Senator Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Mr. President, I rise today on behalf of crucial legislation that must be brought to the Senate floor as soon as possible.
The Violence against Women Act provides essential services to women and families across the United States, and I offer my full support as a cosponsor of this act’s reauthorization. I urge all of my colleagues to join me to ensure its passage.
I have seen how critical this funding is to programs throughout the state. One such program funds Services Training Officers and Prosecutors, or “STOP,” grants to give law enforcement communities the tools they need to effectively combat domestic violence.
In New Hampshire, STOP funding enables seven county attorney offices to hire and train a prosecutor dedicated solely to domestic violence and sexual assault cases. This type of specialized training is essential to addressing the unique challenges associated with domestic violence cases, such as helping victims who are too scared to come forward or change their mind once they arrive at court.
STOP grants fund 12 crisis centers across New Hampshire that provide 24-hour telephone response lines and accompaniment to hospital emergency rooms, police stations and court proceedings.
Perhaps most critically, STOP grants provide training for attorneys to assist victims of domestic violence, helping them navigate a difficult and often intimidating legal system.
This was a lifesaving service for a woman from New Hampshire named Kathy, who was in an abusive relationship for six years.
Kathy was being abused as often as a couple of times a week, frequently leaving her with black eyes and bruises. Once, her partner Mark threw her down the stairs.
Things worsened after this couple had their house foreclosed upon. One day, Mark grabbed Kathy by the throat and lifted her from the floor, then dropped her and began punching her over and over again, all in front of their three-year old child. That was the last straw.
Kathy mustered the courage to contact a friend, who helped her call the local police. Kathy obtained a temporary domestic violence restraining order, and Mark was charged with assault.
But as is often the case, the criminal and civil processes overwhelmed and frustrated Kathy. At many points, she considered dropping the whole thing.
Fortunately, funding from the Violence against Women Act made it possible for Kathy to have an attorney. A lawyer from New Hampshire Legal Assistance represented her.
STOP grants in New Hampshire provide such services to low-income victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Thanks to STOP, Kathy was able to obtain sole custody of her children and support payments. Kathy was ultimately able to make a fresh start, free from abuse.
Some critics of this legislation have said that the Violence against Women Act “has done little or no good for real victims of domestic violence.” They have said that these funds “have been used to fill feminist coffers and to lobby for feminist objectives.” I think Kathy would disagree.
This body should not be divided on this issue, and I’m so pleased that Senator Murkowski has joined us today. Ending the horrific, degrading and painful cycle of domestic abuse is an effort that must transcend party affiliation.
We know these programs work, and I know that we have a strong and effective leader in Susan Carbon, who is now the Director of the Office of Violence against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice. In my time as Governor of New Hampshire, I was privileged to have Susan as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, and she chaired our Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee.
Susan has been in the trenches. She has seen what happens when women are unable to obtain help for themselves and for their families, and she knows that VAWA helps save lives. She needs these essential programs to be reauthorized as quickly as possible in order to continue her great work.
Mr. President, there are too many victims who need our help. It’s time to tell them, “we hear you and we know you’re out there even if you’re not speaking up right now. We want to help you find your voice.” We have the chance to make a difference, and the American people are depending on us to act.
Mr. President, I urge the leaders to bring the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act to the floor, and I implore my colleagues to unite around this important effort.
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