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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, 35 years ago I was a very young assistant prosecutor. There weren't any other women who were assistant prosecutors in Kansas City, and I got assigned a lot of cases that the men in the office used to jokingly call women's work, which meant that I got a lot of cases on welfare fraud and food stamp fraud. And then, as I spent more time in the office, I got sexual assaults and I got domestic violence.

I remember as if it were yesterday the feeling of helplessness as I sat across the desk from a woman who had been beaten to within an inch of her life, and I remember calling the police department and asking for help and them saying: You know, hon, let it go. Tell her to go home.

I remember her asking me: What do I do about my children? I have no money. I don't really want to prosecute him--I don't think he will leave me alone.

I remember not being able to sleep at night because I was so worried about the women who had really no place to go, no one to guide them through the terrifying journey the criminal justice system can be, much less the terrifying journey their lives were. That was 35 years ago.

When I ran for prosecutor in 1992, I said: I am going to start a domestic violence unit, because since then I had spent time working on the laws in Jefferson City, and I had also spent time on the board of a domestic violence shelter--one of the first in Kansas City--and then I became prosecutor, and we started a domestic violence unit.

The police department still pushed back and said: These aren't real crimes. If the victim doesn't want to testify, we have no evidence to go forward.

And I said to them: Wait a minute. We go forward on homicides when the victims can't testify. We should build these cases around the facts and circumstances regardless of the mental state of the victim.

I remember feeling so helpless that we had no resources. And then I remember, as the Jackson County prosecutor in Kansas City, when the Violence Against Women Act passed. I remember reviewing our grant application for the victim advocate in our office, and I remember all of a sudden thinking, you know, we are going to turn the corner.

Is it still a huge problem? Yes. But if you were there 35 years ago on the front lines and you knew the progress we have made to date, you wouldn't be voting no in the Judiciary Committee on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. You wouldn't be doing that.

So let's move forward. Let's make sure the victim advocates who arrive on the scene as a result of this important piece of legislation--let's make sure they stay on the job.

Let's make sure there are not any young prosecutors today who are going home sleepless, much less victims who look at someone who claims they love them, claims they are their protector, but at the same time knowing that person is capable of taking their life. Let's make sure those women have someplace to turn to, their children have someplace to turn to. Let's reauthorize this act today and make sure all the women out there have that help and assistance they need in their time of need.

I yield the floor.

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