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Amy K.
Democrat MN

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  • Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

    by Senator Amy Klobuchar

    Posted on 2013-02-07

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    KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I wish to first thank the Senator from New Mexico for his great leadership on this issue. This is a national issue. It is a bipartisan issue. It crosses geographic lines. Those of us who have significant tribal communities know how important these provisions are to this bill.

    We tried very hard on the Judiciary Committee to make sure this bill is consistent with the bipartisan work we have done in the past, but we also saw it as an opportunity to consolidate some of the programs to save money and then to look at areas where we needed to be more sophisticated, where we needed to respond to changing issues in the law. Certainly, the tribal jurisdiction issue was one of those major issues.

    I rise today to talk about the importance of this bill. It is a law that has changed the way we think about violence against women in the United States of America. The Violence Against Women Act is one of the great legislative success stories in the criminal area in the last few decades. Since it was first passed in 1994, annual domestic violence rates have fallen by 50 percent. Now, you usually cannot say that about criminal prosecution efforts. I usually do not have that kind of number. But that is what we have--since 1994, a 50-percent difference in domestic violence rates.

    People have stopped looking at the issue of domestic violence as a family issue, and they have started treating domestic violence and sexual assault as the serious crimes they are. Last year Minnesota recorded the lowest number of domestic-related deaths since 1991--down from 34 in 2011 to 18. This is in no small part due to the Violence Against Women Act. Women have more access to intervention programs, and they feel more empowered to come forward.

    I know in my own county, where I was chief prosecutor for 8 years, thanks to the good work of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, and my predecessor Mike Freeman, we set up one of the most unique domestic violence service centers in the country. It has been a model for the rest of the country. Under my leadership, we also made changes to it to advance it to even higher levels. But the point is that it is a one- stop shop for the victims of domestic violence, so they can come in, see a prosecutor, see a cop, have a place for their kids to play, be able to find a shelter and a place to live, all under one roof instead of walking through the maze of the bureaucracy in the Government Center.

    Both prevention and prosecution of domestic violence work were among my top priorities as a prosecutor. I know we have done good work, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

    According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in this country. Approximately one in four women has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in her lifetime, and 45 percent of the women killed in the United States are killed by their partner. Every year close to 17,000 people still lose their lives to domestic violence. These statistics mean that sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking are still problems in America. That is why it is so important that we move quickly to take up this bill.

    Just like the two prior authorizations in 2000 and 2006, this bill strengthens current law and provides solutions to problems that we have learned more about since VAWA first passed in 1994.

    The Senate bill continues a tradition of bipartisan sponsorship, with 60 cosponsors, including 7 Republicans. As we know, last April the Senate approved this bill by a 68-to-31 vote. All 17 women Senators--I see my colleague Senator Murkowski here from Alaska. We thank her for her support and vote for that bill. This truly brought the women of the Senate together to stand up against domestic violence.

    What does this bill do that is different from the last bill? Well, it consolidates duplicative programs and streamlines others. It provides greater flexibility for the use of grant money. It has new training requirements for people providing legal assistance to victims. As I mentioned, it takes important steps to address the disproportionately high domestic violence rates in Native American communities.

    I am disappointed that we were unable to include the modest increase in U visas for immigrant victims of domestic violence. There were technical objections to including that provision. It was removed in order to improve our chances of getting this bill done once and for all. U visas are an important tool for encouraging victims to come forward. I will press to increase the number of U visas available to victims when we work on the comprehensive immigration reform bill in the spring.

    One thing I wish to note about this bill is that it closes many gaps in the current system, ways to improve the current system. There was a bill I introduced with Senator Hutchison to address high-tech stalking, cases where stalkers use technology such as the Internet, video surveillance, and bugging to stalk victims. This is not something we probably would be talking about if I were standing here in 1994, but here in 2013, we know it is an issue. We have seen cases across the Nation of this kind of video surveillance and Internet bugging. In fact, we had a very high profile case involving a high profile newscaster who was willing to come forward and work with House and Senate authors on this bill. We are very pleased to have had the support from the Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Sheriffs' Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They have all endorsed this bill.

    This provision, the high-tech stalking provision, is included in the Violence Against Women Act, so we are very happy about that. Again, I believe our laws have to be as sophisticated as those who are breaking them. If they are using the Internet, if they are spying with video cameras through peepholes, we have to be able to respond to that.

    I wanted to end by telling a story I told when we first started to consider this bill over a year ago. A year ago, [[Page S492]] over the holidays, I went to one of the saddest funerals I ever attended. It was the funeral for Shawn Schneider. He was a Lake City police officer in Minneapolis. I have since gotten to know his widow. He died responding to a domestic violence case. He went up to the door. He had received a call from the 17-year-old victim--the department had. He went up there to that door, and he got shot in the head. His bulletproof vest did not protect him. Nothing protected him. When I was sitting in that church and saw his three little children, including that little girl in her little blue dress covered in stars, I thought to myself at that moment, the victims of domestic abuse are not just one victim. It is an entire family. It is an entire community. So in their honor today, in the honor of those children, I would like us to have strong bipartisan support for the Violence Against Women Act. I believe we can do it.

    I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record these letters from law enforcement and criminal justice organizations in support of S. 47, the Violence Against Women Act.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: AEquitas, the Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women, Washington, DC, February 4, 2013.

    Hon. Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Charles Grassley, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Washington, DC.

    Hon. John Conyers, Ranking Member, House Committee on Judiciary, Washington, DC.

    Dear Chairman Leahy, Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Grassley and Ranking Member Conyers: On behalf of AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women, in support for the Violence Against Women Act's (VAWA) reauthorization. AEquitas' mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases by developing, evaluating and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability.

    VAWA has unquestionably improved the nation's justice system response to the devastating crimes of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking. This critical legislation must be reauthorized to ensure a continued response to these crimes.

    Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has improved the criminal justice system's ability to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable. As a result of this historic legislation, every state has enacted laws making stalking a crime and strengthened criminal rape and sexual assault statutes.

    VAWA has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the efforts of prosecutors to hold offenders accountable while supporting victim safety. We urge Congress to reauthorize VAWA to build upon its successes and to expand its ability to improve our response to these crimes, hold perpetrators accountable, and keep victims and their children safe from future harm.

    Thank you for your leadership and steadfast commitment to supporting victims of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking. We look forward to hearing of VAWA's swift reauthorization. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Sincerely, Jennifer G. Long, J.D., Director.

    ____ American Probation and Parole Association, Lexington, KY, February 1, 2013.

    Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, DC.

    Senator Mike Crapo, Washington, DC.

    Dear Senators Leahy and Crapo: The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) represents over 35,000 pretrial, probation, parole and community corrections professionals working in the criminal and juvenile justice systems nationally and come from federal, state, local and tribal jurisdictions. On behalf of our membership and constituents we whole-heartedly support your efforts to have the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorized.

    The VAWA initiatives have supported state, local and tribal efforts to effectively address the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. These efforts have shown great progress and promise towards keeping victims safe and holding perpetrators accountable. The reauthorization of VAWA is critical to maintaining the progress of current initiatives and ensuring comprehensive and effective responses to these crimes in the future for the protection of all victims without consideration of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

    Domestic violence perpetrators represent a significant proportion of the total population on community supervision. In 200 8 there were nearly 86,000 adults on probation for a domestic violence offense in United States, and data from the California Department of Justice indicates that in 2000 approximately 90 % of adults convicted of felony domestic violence offenses in that state were sentenced to a period of probation, either alone or coupled with incarceration. Domestic violence offenders are among the most dangerous offenders on community supervision caseloads, and in order to supervise domestic violence offenders effectively, community corrections professionals must receive adequate training.

    Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has been instrumental in increasing our constituents' attention to and understanding of these crimes as well as provided significant assistance in humanizing their responsiveness to victims and improving their practices related to accountability and intervention with perpetrators of these crimes. VAWA has without question been instrumental in developing community supervision practices that keep victims and their families safe from future harm and improved compliance and behavioral change for perpetrators.

    We stand ready to assist you throughout the reauthorization process. If you have any questions or require further information or assistance, please feel free to contact me.

    Sincerely, Carl Wicklund, Executive Director.

    ____ Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Washington, DC, February 4, 2013.

    Hon. Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Washington, DC.

    Dear Chairman Leahy: On behalf of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which represents and supports all prosecutors, I am writing today regarding the Violence Against Women Act's (VAWA) reauthorization. VAWA has improved the criminal justice system's response to the devastating crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The reauthorization of this critical legislation ensures a continued response to these crimes.

    Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has dramatically enhanced our nation's response to violence against women. More victims report domestic violence to the police, the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 63%, and VAWA saved nearly $14.8 billion in net averted social costs in just the first six years.

    The reauthorization of VAWA builds upon existing efforts to more effectively combat violence against all victims. The reauthorization of VAWA renews a range of important programs and initiatives for law enforcement to address the various causes and far-reaching consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. VAWA Reauthorization will further build upon the successes of these programs by including measures to ensure an increased focus on sexual assault prevention, enforcement, and services; and providing assistance to law enforcement to take key steps to reduce backlogs of rape kits under their control.

    VAWA has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the efforts of law enforcement agencies nationwide to keep victims and their children safe and hold perpetrators accountable. Thank you for your leadership and steadfast commitment to supporting victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. We look forward to hearing of VAWA's swift reauthorization. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

    Sincerely, Steven Jansen, Vice President/COO.

    ____ Board of Supervisors, County of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, January 31, 2013.

    Hon. Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.

    Dear Mr. Chairman: I am writing on behalf of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to urge you to take action on legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

    Thank you for introducing S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. Programs authorized by VAWA have saved lives as well as providing resources and training needed in communities like Santa Barbara County to address these reprehensible crimes, and the Board recognizes the importance of reauthorizing and enhancing the resources provided by this important public safety program.

    The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act would expand the law's focus on sexual assault and help ensure access to services for all victims of domestic and sexual violence. It also responds to these difficult economic times by consolidating programs, focusing on the most effective approaches, and adding accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used efficiently and effectively.

    The Violence Against Women Act has been successful because it has consistently had [[Page S493]] strong bipartisan support for nearly two decades. Please work with the members of your committee to expedite action on S. 47 or similar legislation to reauthorize VAWA.

    Sincerely yours, Thomas P. Walters, Washington Representative.

    ____ American Bar Association, Chicago, IL, January 30, 2013.

    Hon. Patrick J. Leahy, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Michael D. Crapo, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.

    Dear Senators Leahy and Crapo: On behalf of the American Bar Association (ABA), with nearly 400,000 members across the country, I write to commend your continued bipartisan leadership in the cause of justice and equal rights with the introduction of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The ABA strongly supports your effort to renew proven and effective programs that support victims of domestic, sexual, stalking and dating violence and their families.

    The ABA has long supported efforts to address domestic, sexual and stalking violence, and we recognize that the legal profession fulfills an important role in addressing these crimes. Since 1994, the ABA's Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence has also worked to increase access to justice for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking by mobilizing the legal profession.

    In recent years, the ABA has adopted policies that specifically address VAWA reauthorization, including some of the more challenging issues that ultimately proved to be barriers to reauthorization during the last Congress: February 2010: urging reauthorization and highlighting the need for legislation that ``provides services, protection, and justice for underserved and vulnerable victims of violence, including children and youth who are victims or are witnesses to family violence, and victims who are disabled, elderly, immigrant, trafficked, LGBT and/or Indian.'' August 2012: urging Congress ``to strengthen tribal jurisdiction to address crimes of gender-based violence on tribal lands that are committed by non-Indian perpetrators.'' VAWA reauthorization was a legislative priority for the association during the 112th Congress and a focus of our annual grassroots lobbying event, ABA Day 2012, when ABA, state, local, and specialty bar leaders from al l 50 states met with members of Congress of both parties on this issue.

    VAWA reauthorization remains a priority for the American Bar Association during the 113th Congress. We appreciate your leadership and look forward to working with you to ensure passage of this legislation.

    Sincerely, Laurel G. Bellows.

    ____ Attorney General of Missouri, Jefferson City, MO, February 6, 2013.

    Dear Members of Congress: In 1994, this nation's leaders enacted the Violence Against Women Act (``VAWA''). This landmark piece of legislation put in place a legal framework that better enabled states like Missouri to effectively investigate violent crimes against women, prosecute and punish offenders, and protect victims from further harm. In the decades since VAWA's enactment, Congress has twice voted to reauthorize the law. With each reauthorization, Congress not only strengthened the provisions of the law, it also reaffirmed this country's commitment to support survivors of personal violence and sexual assault. It is time to do so again.

    Missouri women and their families rely on the programs and services that VAWA makes possible. For example, non-profit, community, and faith-based organizations use federal funds directed through VAWA's Sexual Assault Services Program to provide vital support to victims of sexual assault. And Missouri prosecutors, police officers, and court personnel participate in training funded through the STOP (Services Training Officers Prosecutors) program, equipping them to better address violent crime against women.

    But the work is just beginning. In 2011, over 40,000 incidents of domestic violence were reported in Missouri. Thirty women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends. Missouri women reported more than 1,400 forcible rapes or attempted forcible rapes. And although over 10,000 women in need were able to find a place at a shelter, nearly 20,000 more were turned away.

    By reauthorizing VAWA, this Congress will continue the effort undertaken nearly twenty years ago--the effort to eliminate violent crime perpetrated against our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our neighbors, and our friends. I urge each of you to support this important legislation.

    Respectfully, Chris Koster, Attorney General, State of Missouri.

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