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Public Statements

Recognizing 15th Anniversary Of The Violence Against Women Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 738 recognizes the 15th anniversary of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

Signed into law on September 13, 1994, by President Bill Clinton, the Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA, recognizes the severity of crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

This historic legislation was the first comprehensive policy package designed to dramatically reduce violence against women. Its protections and provisions were subsequently expanded and improved in the Violence Against Women Acts of 2000 and 2005.

When VAWA was reauthorized in 2000, it improved the foundation established in VAWA 1994 by creating a legal assistance program for victims and by expanding the definition of domestic violence crimes to include dating violence and stalking. I could not be more proud of these accomplishments, and I am honored to be here today to help recognize this significant program's 15th year of success.

VAWA-funded interventions have lowered both domestic violence and sexual assault rates. Not unimportantly, since the 1994 passage of VAWA it is estimated that more than $14 billion in societal costs have been averted by reducing the need for emergency and medical responses.

This important legislation has also succeeded in bringing communities together to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Currently, law enforcement, prosecution, the courts, victim services, and community-based programs work together on the grassroots and State-wide levels to develop long-term plans for addressing the four categories of crime.

VAWA funding of demonstration projects, trainings, and development of specialized courts and police teams has led to the creation of new techniques to successfully prevent violence against women. For example, the Sexual Assault Services program created in VAWA 2005 enabled our Nation's 1,300 rape crisis centers to reduce waiting lists, reach out to underserved communities and provide more comprehensive services to survivors of sexual assault. But that's not all this monumental legislation has done to help eradicate violence against women. In addition, VAWA 2000 created T and U visas to allow victims of human and sexual trafficking and violent crimes such as sexual assault to come forward and seek law enforcement assistance without the fear of deportation.

Over 1,300 victims of human trafficking have received T visas. The National Center for Victims of Crime has also witnessed dramatic improvement during the past 15 years in the way our Nation responds to stalking cases. This progress, too, is attributed to the Violence Against Women Act.

Undoubtedly, VAWA has provided crucial Federal support for criminal justice officials and victim service providers who work so hard each day to hold offenders accountable and keep stalking victims safe.

The holistic approach to addressing violence against women that VAWA promotes is inextricably linked to the improved safety and security of victims of domestic and sexual violence and their families. For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I would like to concur and associate myself with the remarks of the gentle lady from Tennessee as we celebrate 15 years since the first passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

I remember back in my early days in the Florida Legislature when we were struggling--and I'm sure that you went through the same thing in Tennessee--just to get domestic violence recognized as a serious crime. And we fought to pass laws like this one around the country, fought subsequently to get a crime like stalking declared as a crime and not just get sort of brushed aside as something trivial that women shouldn't worry their pretty little heads over. These kind of crimes, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, are taken seriously now by law enforcement. They have the resources behind them as a result of the Violence Against Women Act.

We look forward to the reauthorization, the discussions that will occur next year, and celebrate the 15th year since VAWA's first introduction and passage.

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