February 07, 2013

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today to urge her colleagues to come together and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) without further delay.  Shaheen has been a strong advocate of VAWA and has visited crisis centers across New Hampshire to emphasize the essential services the program offers to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Shaheen was introduced this morning by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who highlighted Shaheen’s successful work in New Hampshire and with the Department of Justice to ensure citizens in rural areas have access to transportation when they need to get to a crisis center.

Below are Senator Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you to my colleague from Vermont for that generous introduction.  I want to thank you for your tireless efforts to help women and families.  You have been a true champion for survivors of domestic violence, and I hope today that all in the Senate will join me in passing this important legislation.

I thank Senator Leahy for highlighting the problem of transportation that is a real impediment for many women in rural areas, where access to the family vehicle may be controlled by their abuser, and there is no public transit system.  I hope that we will be able to better address this need as we move forward.

One of the reasons I am proud to support this bill is that it takes a truly comprehensive approach to the problem.  It supports crisis centers for women and families to provide for immediate needs like shelter and counseling.  Last year, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence reported that while they were able to provide shelter for 630 who needed a place to sleep, they had to turn away 721 because they just didn’t have room. 

Even with VAWA’s help, they had to turn away more people than they could help.  In the face of a need this great, it is easy to feel discouraged, and wonder whether we can really help at all. But when I speak to the brave women – the survivors - who have reached out for help, and the advocates who help them rebuild their shattered lives, I know we can and must push on.

Let me be clear, Mr. President.  The problem of domestic violence will not be easily solved.  It is complex and difficult, and hard to reach those who need our help most.  We don’t even have a full picture of the problem because so many women never come forward.  But we are up to the task.  We have to be.  We must all stand together, determined to do whatever it takes to begin the healing. 

Let today be the day we re-commit to helping the most vulnerable among us.

The Violence Against Women Act helps us do this by providing funding for police officers and prosecutors so abusers are held responsible. 

In Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, VAWA funds and their matches pay for a Detective Sergeant, an investigator and a domestic violence advocate.  I have heard time and again from law enforcement that the Violence Against Women Act helps them keep our communities safe and helps stop the cycle of abuse. 

Let us today re-commit to giving law enforcement the resources they need.

I’ve brought with me a chart that gives us some sense of how pervasive this problem really is. 

One in four women in the United States has been a victim of domestic violence.  Three women are murdered every day by their partners.  This is an especially big problem in New Hampshire where half of all murders are domestic violence homicides. 

Fifteen million children are exposed to domestic violence every year.  The evidence tells us that children who witness violence and victimization and more likely to be in an abusive relationship later in life.  We have been talking a lot recently about ways to reduce violence in our schools and among our youth, and passing VAWA will be an important step in that effort. 

Let us today re-commit to shielding our children from senseless violence.

Another reason I’m proud to support this bill is that it treats all victims equally, and recognizes that members of the LGBT community are just as deserving of our support as any other survivor of domestic violence.  A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control tells us that those in LGBT relationships actually experience domestic violence at a higher rate than heterosexual couples. 

Let us today re-commit to providing help for all Americans, regardless of who they love, or who has abused them.

Finally, I’d like to leave you all with a quote from a woman in New Hampshire who sought help at a crisis center that receives funds from VAWA, the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention.  Before she left she told the case managers: “You all have really made my life worth holding onto and not giving up.  Please don’t ever give up doing what you do because you truly saved my life.”

We must not give up until this legislation is on President Obama’s desk and signed into law.  There are too many victims counting on us to get this done.  I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting the Violence Against Women Act.

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