Apr 26 2012
I rise today with the surest conviction that this body united as a group of democrats and Republicans can and will rote vote to ensure the women and children of this country are free from domestic abuse. I believe that opposing the bill before us would defy every ounce of common sense that I have in my body.
I am a proud sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, as most of my colleagues here in this body, because it is unfathomable that any individual could oppose efforts to ensure that women and children are free from violence. The bill we are currently considering would reauthorize several essential grant programs that have made a tremendous difference in my state great of West Virginia and across this nation.
Here is what I have heard from the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence Team Coordinators—Sue Julian and Tonya Thomas:
The Violence Against Women Act is the most critical piece of federal legislation affecting the safety of survivors of domestic violence and their children in every county of West Virginia. The law supports cost-effective responses to the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence.
VAWA funds innovative, successful programs that are the core of our nation's response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Action taken at the congressional level to end violence against women and children, and even men, echoes through the hills and hollows of most remote communities in my state. Without VAWA, the collaborative efforts of law enforcement, prosecution, victim advocates and judicial personnel would be fragmented, compartmentalized, and worse counterproductive to each other.
VAWA saves lives. It changes communities. It offers safeties and creates channels of hope.
Madame President, we know that since it first passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women's Act had reduced domestic violence by more than 50% throughout the critical programs it funds. Still, violence against women and children is a terrifying reality in this country.
Let me share with you some startling statistics that illustrate the scope of this problem. According to the West Virginia Foundation of Rape Information and Services, in our state's Sexual Assault Coalition, one in six women in West Virginia will be a victim of an attempted or completed rape. According to the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on any given day, licensed domestic violence programs in West Virginia provide services to nearly 600 women and children and men. Every seven minutes a call is made to domestic violence hotline in West Virginia. One-third of homicides in West Virginia are related to domestic violence. More than two-thirds of women murdered in West Virginia are killed by a member of their family or a member of their household.
In 2010, there were 11,174 investigations into domestic violence allegations in West Virginia, which required 272,450 hours of law enforcement involvement.
This legislation is a fight on behalf of the women whose stories are contained in those numbers— but whose lives are invaluable and more important than any strategy could ever hope to portray. And no one can better speak to the importance of the Violence Against Women Act than the groups whose work each and every day is improved because of the programs supported by the law.
Madame Chairman, growing up in a small community in Farmington, West Virginia, and in a loving family, violence against women and children was unfathomable. I could not have even thought of it. The most beautiful people in my life were my mother, my grandmother, my sisters, my aunts, my cousins. They all were the most beautiful people I ever could have hoped to grow up with.
My grandmother, affectionately known as Mama Kay, always had been the glue to our family and kept it together. And really kept the community together. She was a symbol of strength, the woman who others would turn to for a place to stay or a hot meal in times of trouble.
And how I grew up, we celebrated and admired the women who raised us and those around us. We thanked them and we loved them and we showed them our appreciation and respect.
It is incomprehensible to me how anyone can make the decision to inflict physical pain on someone else—a woman, a child, or even a man. Truly, life is tough enough without involving violence.
Once again, Madame President, for each and every member of the Senate who will cast a vote on this bill, the question comes down to this: what is it that we truly value? What are our priorities?
Ensuring that women and children have adequate protection against violence just makes common sense. And to the people of West Virginia, I know this is at the highest priority.
Of course, these atrocities are not at all unique to my state. Nationally, domestic violence accounts for 22% of the violent crimes experienced by women and 3% of the violent crimes against men.
Approximately 37% of the women seeking injury-related treatment in hospital and emergency rooms, where they are there because of injuries inflicted by a current or a former spouse or partner.
In tough economic times, like those that we are experiencing now, women are more likely to become a victim of domestic violence.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, domestic violence is more than three times as likely to occur when couples are experiencing high levels of financial strain as when they're experiencing low levels of financial strain.
Women whose male partners experience two or more periods of unemployment over a five-year study were almost three times as likely to be victims of intimate violence than were women whose partners had stable jobs.
73% of the shelters attributed the rise in abuse to financial issues, stress, and job loss were also frequently cited as causing increased victims seeking shelter.
It goes on and on and all we're asking for is to make this a nonpartisan issue. Come together as Americans, come together as senators, not worrying about our political differences. This is one bill that brings us all together for our common cause. It is the most decent cause and something that's needed in America.I urge the support of all of my colleagues to please support this.