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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today to affirm her support for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and urge the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan, Senate-passed version of the bill.

Shaheen said the Senate version of the bill honors the bipartisan history of the legislation and includes new protections for victims in same-sex relationships, for immigrant victims, and for women on tribal lands currently facing domestic violence. The House version of the bill, which is scheduled for a vote tomorrow, strips these critical protections and weakens protections for students on college campuses. The Senate version of VAWA reauthorization passed on April 26 by a vote of 68-31.

Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Mr. President, I rise today to reaffirm my commitment to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which recently passed out of the Senate in a bipartisan commitment to end domestic and sexual abuse, stalking and dating violence.  The House of Representatives will be taking a vote soon on their proposed counterpart to the Violence Against Women Act, and I would like to address some of my concerns with their bill.

A majority of us in Congress and in the country recognize the significant impact that domestic violence has on our nation.  It affects victims and families, but it also compromises the very stability of our towns and communities.  The Violence Against Women Act provides essential resources for victims and for law enforcement, and I was pleased to see many of us in the Senate put politics aside to support this important reauthorization.

The House version unfortunately does not provide the same level of protection for victims, and does not include some resources specifically requested by law enforcement.  Protections are diminished for women in college; lesbian, gay and transgendered victims; immigrants and Native Americans.

The Senate bill strengthens this important law to provide more protection to more women and their families.  The House bill weakens it by failing to state that same-sex couples will have equal access to services, by decreasing protections for immigrant victims, and by declining to expand the jurisdiction of tribal courts. 

Here’s one example of where the House bill fails.  The Senate bill provides strong protections omitted in the House bill for students on college campuses.  These are some of them:

  • A provision requiring a university to implement prevention programs teaching all students, male and female, how to help prevent sexual violence and dating violence, including bystander education. 
  • It also requires a university to make reasonable accommodations for a student who needs to change their living, working or academic situation as a result of being victimized. 
  • For example, if a young woman is the victim of an assault, and her attacker lives in her dorm, this bill would require the University to help that young woman find another place to live.  The House bill does not require that.

The Department of Justice recently estimated that 25 percent of college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate within a four-year college period, and that women between the ages of 16 to 24 will experience rape at a rate that's four times higher than the assault rate of all women.  This is a serious problem, and the safeguards we implemented in the Senate bill must be preserved.

I had a chance to meet with case workers at crisis centers and real victims of domestic violence in New Hampshire.  I heard from one woman who said that if it hadn’t been for the 24-hour hotline and her case worker at the Bridges Crisis Center in Nashua, she would never have been able to leave her abuser.  She was able to stand up for herself, to end the terrible cycle of abuse, because of the Violence Against Women Act.  All victims should have equal access to these important resources, and it is imperative that this bill provide that.

I urge my colleagues in the House to insist on these essential components, so that we can move forward on this reauthorization and protect all victims of domestic violence.