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Mrs. HAGAN. Madam President, I rise to join my colleagues in calling for passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. I am disheartened that in the last several months petty, partisan gamesmanship has held up this legislation.
Since VAWA originally passed on a bipartisan basis in 1994, the annual incidence of domestic violence has decreased by 53 percent. Many victims are now reporting incidents of abuse rather than hiding in fear. Reports of abuse have increased by 51 percent. This law has transformed our criminal justice system and victim support services. The law has worked well because it encourages collaboration among law enforcement, health and housing professionals, and community organizations to help prevent and respond to intimate partner violence.
In one recent instance in my State, a man was on pretrial release after being charged with stalking his wife. Thanks to the STOP grants funding--which provide services and training for our officers and prosecutors--he was being monitored. This individual was being electronically monitored and was caught violating the conditions of his release when he went to his estranged wife's home. The supervising officer was immediately notified of this violation and police officers found the man with the help of the GPS and arrested him in his estranged wife's driveway.
Thank goodness this woman was protected and this incident did not add another victim to the 73 deaths caused by domestic violence each year in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, though, the well-being of women in North Carolina and around the country hangs in the balance until we in Congress take action on this act.
Domestic violence also hurts our economy. It costs our health care system $8.3 billion each year. The reauthorization of this act streamlines crucial existing programs that protect women while recognizing the difficult fiscal decisions facing the Federal Government today. Thirteen existing programs would be consolidated to four, which will reduce administrative costs and avoid duplication. New accountability provisions will also require strict audits and enforcement mechanisms aimed at ensuring these funds are used wisely and efficiently.
In fact, title V of this bill includes one of my bills--the Violence Against Women Health Initiative. My bill provides vital training and education to help health care providers better identify the signs of domestic violence and sexual assault. It helps medical professionals assess violence and then refer patients to the appropriate victim services.
This training would have helped Yolanda Haywood, a woman who, as a young mother of three, found herself in an abusive marriage. Her husband abused her regularly and one night punched her in the face and split her lip, which sent her to the emergency room. She obviously needed stitches. As she sat on the examination table, the physician who was sewing her lip back asked: Who did this to you? Yolanda quietly said: My husband. The physician responded by telling her she needs to learn how to duck better.
Yolanda spent the next several years learning how to duck before finally leaving that abusive relationship. Empowered by her experience, she went to medical school and now teaches students at a prestigious university the importance of identifying and treating domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as working in an ER.
In a recent visit to a woman's domestic shelter in Charlotte, I met a counselor who shared this story with me. A young boy had just spent his first night at the shelter. The next morning the counselor was talking to him and he said he slept with both eyes shut last night. The counselor asked the young boy: Well, how do you usually sleep? He said: I usually sleep with one eye open and one eye closed because the last time I slept with both eyes closed my mommy and I both got hurt.
This is the kind of experience this bill will help with. It will protect women and children. For all the progress we have made combating violence against women, this must continue to be a priority. I urge each of my colleagues to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it literally saves lives in North Carolina and around the country, while ensuring a better future for our children.
I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.
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