Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013by Former Representative Kerry L. Bentivolio
Posted on 2013-02-28
BENTIVOLIO. Madam Speaker, legislation that is passed here needs
to be more than just a title that sounds good in the press. I
understand that when most in this country hear the ``Violence Against
Women Act,'' they think, ``of course I don't support violence against
women. This must be a great bill.'' When I was a high school teacher I
used to tell my English students that you can't judge a book by its
cover. Well, maybe we should learn here in Congress that you can't
judge a bill by its title.
The gruesome and oftentimes cruel experience of domestic violence should not happen to anyone. It shouldn't matter what race or ethnicity you are. It shouldn't matter your religion, your sexual orientation, age, immigration status or economic standing. And it shouldn't matter your gender. No one should feel unsafe at home.
Unfortunately, this bill doesn't do that. This bill segregates people into groups, making gendered designations that assume a feminization of victimhood. We live in a fallen world in which all kinds of people are capable horrid, violent behavior, every victim of domestic violence should receive protection and support regardless of their circumstances. I wish this bill simply dealt with domestic violence instead of gender stereotypes.
Furthermore, the Tenth Amendment exists and we can't ignore it. Each State already has criminal statues targeting domestic violence. If more laws are needed, there is no reason why each state can't pass stronger laws. I understand that there are cases where Washington can help, that's why I support the SAFE Act, which will end the needless backlog of rape kits, leaving too many sexual predators still at large. I wish we were voting on that today and I hope we can do so as soon as possible.
Laws should be passed that don't place people into groups. My constituents sent me to Washington to vote for sound policy, not for titles that just sound good in the media. For these reasons, I cannot support this bill.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill which aims to protect all Americans from domestic and sexual abuse.
I thank Speaker Boehner for bringing S. 47 to the House floor for a vote. This bill passed in the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 78-22. Altogether, 23 Republican senators voted for this bill, including every Republican woman senator. Madam Speaker, this bill, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican, is not only bipartisan, but it is also a comprehensive and inclusive solution to the domestic and sexual violence plaguing American society.
While I fully support reauthorization of this law which, since 1994, has been an essential tool to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence, I do, however, have major concerns with the GOP substitute to this bill. Unlike S. 47, the substitute offers a lesser form of protection for Indian women abused on tribal land.
The House version requires that Native American tribes seek certification from the U.S. Department of Justice before they are able to prosecute non-Indian offenders on tribal land. Madam Speaker, this doesn't make any sense. A sovereign tribe should not have to willingly hand over part of their sovereignty to prosecute these offenders. Ultimately, the House version falls short of protecting Native American women.
However, today the House has an opportunity to pass S. 47 which is supported by those it aims to protect, including the Native American community. S. 47 offers comprehensive protection for all of our people, not just some.
Madam Speaker, unfortunately, domestic and sexual crimes have been on the rise in the U.S., including my district of American Samoa. And like many cases in the States, almost always, the perpetrator is a family member or close neighbor.
Furthermore, these crimes often go unreported due to fear of authorities or shame. It is the fear to come forward that allows abusers to continue their abuse. But when laws are in place to offer full support and protection for victims, we can ensure that more and more of these victims will come forth and their abusers are brought to justice.
Through this inclusive legislation, S. 47, we take one step forward to reinforce support even for the most marginalized communities. Today the House has the opportunity to pass this bill to protect all people, whether they are from the inner city or a tribal reservation, whether they are immigrants who would otherwise be afraid to come forward, or whether they are part of the LGBT community.
Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote no on the House amendment and to pass S. 47, a bill to protect all people, because that, Madam Speaker, is what America is all about.
Mr. HOLT. Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be support this very good bill. I only wish it had been allowed on the House floor a year ago for a vote.
For the first time in years, the Congress is poised to pass a VAWA reauthorization that is worthy of the name. Finally, we will be providing real protections for a number of vulnerable populations among America's women.
Of course, this bill almost didn't make it to the House floor. The House majority was going to simply sit on S. 47 and offer their own VAWA substitute. After a massive public shaming, the majority backed down. They are still offering their own so-called substitute--which is a sham--but we will also have the chance to vote on the Senate bill, which is the true VAWA reauthorization.
This bill provides tangible, enforceable protections for LGBT, Native American and immigrant victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The bill will help ensure the availability of services to all victims of domestic and dating violence, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. S. 47 also provides authority to Native American tribes to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators for a narrow set of crimes related to domestic, dating violence and violations of protecting orders. The Senate bill also adds stalking to the list of crimes for which victims can receive protection through the U-Visa program. Finally, S. 47 also includes authorizations for programs preventing human trafficking, sexual assault on college campuses, as well as additional resources to address rape kit backlogs.
Madam Speaker, this day has been entirely too long in coming, but I am pleased that it is finally here and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill and sending it to President Obama for his signature.