Senator Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor to highlight the importance of passing the Violence Against Women Act.
Below are her remarks, as prepared for delivery:
I rise today to talk about the importance of passing the Violence Against Women Act and continuing this critical funding for survivors of domestic violence. We’ve heard about the protections offered by the Senate reauthorization of this measure that the House simply lacks, protections that would help women on college campuses, women on tribal lands, LGBT victims and immigrants. But it’s important to remember all of the other ways that VAWA benefits each of us.
Let me be clear, Mr. President. Domestic violence isn’t just a women’s issue, it affects all of us and it impacts our entire economy.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates the direct health care costs associated with domestic violence to be around $4.1 billion every year. And we know this is a conservative estimate, because many victims never come forward.
The protections offered by the Violence Against Women Act have proven to be absolutely essential to preventing abuse. Last week marked the 18th anniversary of the original passage of VAWA, so it’s a good time to reflect on the progress we’ve made.
Over the past 18 years, the reporting of incidents of domestic violence to law enforcement has increased by 51 percent. According to the FBI, the number of women killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34 percent. Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health estimate that VAWA saved $12.6 billion in its first seven years alone. This bill is a good investment.
This is about telling victims of violence that we stand with them, because having safe, healthy citizens benefits every one of us. We all do better when fewer women are going to the emergency room, missing work or giving their children up in order to protect them from violence at home.
We are all in this together.
I have had a chance to visit several crisis centers in New Hampshire that benefit directly from VAWA funding. Most recently, I visited the City of Keene’s Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention and had a chance to speak with caseworkers and survivors. Two women told me that when they decided it was time to leave their abusers, they had nowhere else to go.
And I asked them, “What would have happened if this center wasn’t here?”
“My husband would have killed me,” replied one woman.
I also had a chance to meet some children who were staying at the center. And I’d like to take a moment to talk about how important this bill is for them, children who witness domestic violence or who are victims themselves.
Centers all over New Hampshire and the United States have advocacy programs funded by VAWA that offer support groups for children, who are particularly vulnerable and ill-equipped to deal with trauma.
And this trauma affects them for their entire lives. A study by the World Health Organization found that children raised in households where domestic violence occurred are more likely to have behavioral problems, drop out of school early, and experience juvenile delinquency.
A child who witnesses domestic violence between his parents is more likely to view violence as an acceptable method of conflict resolution. Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to become abusers, and girls who witness domestic violence are more likely to become victims of domestic violence as adults.
One advocate at the Bridges Crisis Center in New Hampshire does her best to prevent this cycle by providing safety planning for the children, teaching them that they can live a life free of violence. Free preventive care for children, made possible by a grant from VAWA. Our children deserve this. We are all in this together.
This is why we need to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. This is about women who are in danger, children and families who are at risk.
I heard the story of one young boy, Brian, who was nervous about returning to school. He was supposed to bring with him a story about something fun he had done over the summer. Brian was staying at Bridges with his mother, and it had not been a fun summer. So the child advocate organized a barbeque in a park across the street from the crisis center. And so off he went that first day of school, equipped with a happy memory that VAWA helped create. Think of that image, when you think about what this bill does.
This is the type of healing we need more of, and we can start by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. I urge all of my colleagues in the House to pass the Senate VAWA, for women, for children, for all survivors and for those that have not yet come forward. I yield the floor.