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Mr. WYDEN. I think the Senator from Washington has made an extraordinary presentation in terms of outlining the facts of the abuse women face. Having done a series of forums around my home State--as my colleague knows, in our part of the country in Washington and in Oregon where there are many small communities of 10,000, 15,000 people, it is my experience--and I would be interested in getting the assessment of our colleague since she has been a leader on this--that without the Violence Against Women Act, it is my understanding that women in rural areas who face the kind of brutal treatment my colleague described would literally have nowhere to turn, so that the Violence Against Women Act for women in rural areas in particular is sort of the last line of defense for them.
Mrs. MURRAY. The Senator from Oregon is absolutely correct. If a woman has been beaten and abused and believes she is a victim of violence with nowhere to
turn, especially in a rural community where everyone knows everyone and a person doesn't know who to turn to, there is no place to go. The Violence Against Women Act provides the support of law enforcement officers and advocates so a person can get out of a very abusive situation.
Mr. WYDEN. I am going to listen to the rest of my colleague's remarks, and I will have my own. But I just want to thank the Senator from Washington for her leadership. This is such an important issue. It is not about dollars and cents, and it is not about politics. It is about doing what is right for combating violence, and I commend my colleague.
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Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I wish to follow on the very important remarks made by our colleague, Senator Murray. As a result of the debate we have had in Washington, DC, I knew there was a significant problem, but until we held these forums across our State--we essentially went into every corner of Oregon--it really didn't come home to me how serious a problem this is.
I wish to highlight for a moment or two this point I got into with Senator Murray with respect to rural areas, some of the stories. For example, I was told about a woman in central Oregon who essentially, faced with a very abusive relationship, spent the evening trying to hide out in ditches in the community. She would just run from ditch to ditch. Of course, a person gets pretty banged up and bruised when they do something like that, but she hid out in ditches through the night in order to avoid her abuser.
But then it came to morning time and she wanted to get out. She wanted to get to the Safety Net program, which is a wonderful shelter in her area. But the fact was the only way to get out was to ask for a ride from the one person who had a vehicle in the community, and that was the person who abused her in the first place. So, literally, in a rural community--and I heard this account just recently--she had nowhere to turn. That is why I characterize the Violence Against Women Act as--especially for rural women--the last line of defense between them and the abuser.
In another community--I know my colleague, the Presiding Officer, will identify with this, and I enjoyed going to West Virginia and the like--in a rural community in the eastern part of our State, it was described to me that there was no transportation out of the community. There was no transportation at all. The woman involved was going to literally have to stay there and face continual abuse. The one vehicle in the community was a fishing shuttle.
I am sure the Senator from West Virginia identifies with that. It is something we have in our rural communities--a vehicle that takes folks fishing.
The owner of the fishing shuttle said: I am going to be the one to take this woman to safety. I don't need to be reimbursed. I don't need to have some kind of government program or something. I am going to do it because it is right.
That is how that woman in a rural community escaped her abuser. She got out. She got free. She was able to shake out of the clutches of the abuser because the fellow who owned the fishing shuttle stuck up for her.
But I think this is Senator Murray's point: I do not think we can accept that all across the country we are going to have fishing shuttles available in order to rescue women who are subject to this kind of abuse. I think that is pretty farfetched, and the good hearts of Oregonians came through in that particular situation, but we have to reenact this program.
The fact is, Mr. President and colleagues, this has been the law of the land for more than a decade. There has not been a shred of partisanship in it. It is not about ideology. It is about protecting women from brutality. I had thought, frankly, we had gotten over some of the arguments against this legislation that had been trotted out in the past.
For example, it was often said in the past: Well, maybe these abuse cases are not abuse. Maybe they are just kind of family matters. They are going to get settled when the family kind of calms down. Maybe somebody got upset about something, and then in a day or so everything is going to go back to normal.
That is not the case. This is about repeated instances of violence, repeated instances of violence you cannot slough off as a family difference of opinion. It is a crime. It is brutal violence. That is why we need this legislation, and we need it reauthorized.
I think it is also especially important, given some of the budget cuts we have seen that are particularly hitting small communities like a wrecking ball. For example, in Josephine County--a rural part of our State--they are in the position where, when a subpoena goes out, they essentially do not have the resources to follow it up. In other words, the subpoena is used to, in effect, set in motion the law enforcement process to bring the abuser to justice, and I was told by the key law enforcement officials in Josephine County--in a community forum I held in Medford, OR, for folks from the southwestern part of the State--that they literally do not have the resources to follow up on how to ensure that abuser is brought to justice.
I would make a couple of additional points. I see colleagues on the floor waiting to speak.
I also want to talk about the costs that are associated with this. You have two kinds of costs. First, you have direct health care costs that stem from the violence you see perpetrated against women, and then also you have costs in terms of lost productivity. At a time when we are getting hit very hard by unemployment--and we know we are in a productivity race with Asia and India and China and other countries--we cannot afford the costs, the health care costs of the violence against women that ends up having women land in hospital emergency rooms and the like, nor can we allow this lost productivity at a time when we are pushing so hard to create more good-paying jobs.
The protection that is offered through the Violence Against Women Act saves my home State of Oregon now millions of dollars through its key provisions. Safety from domestic violence would save Oregon more than $35 million per year in direct health care costs. Our State loses approximately $9.3 million per year in lost productivity from paid work as a result of domestic violence. The fact is, the preventive services offered by the Violence Against Women Act saves money, as does the very important work that is done by victim services.
The study of 278 victims in my home town of Portland who received domestic violence and housing assistance found that those services resulted in more than $610,000 in savings during the first 6 months. So there are savings in terms of assistance, whether it is housing or counseling. Emergency medical care utilization is reduced as a result of emergency services, safety net services being available. Whether it is one measure or another, from a financial standpoint, reauthorizing the violence against women legislation makes sense.
But at the end of the day, while the financial savings are substantial, it seems to me the Violence Against Women Act is about restoring dignity to women who have been abused in our country. No woman in the United States should be subject to the kind of physical abuse I have documented in cases coming from Oregon and that Senator Murray has described this morning. They strip our people--women in this country--of their dignity and their confidence and their ability, after they shake free from their abuser, to get on and have the kind of productive life they want for themselves and their family.
Ultimately, this is about dignity. It is about doing what is right. This legislation has been on the books for more than a decade. There is no reason--none whatever--that this legislation is not passed overwhelmingly on a bipartisan, bicameral basis. I am going to do everything I can here on the floor of the Senate talking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure this legislation is reauthorized. Because what I saw during these community forums in my home State, from small towns across Oregon, should not happen in my State, it should not happen anywhere, because it is not right, and the Senate can take action to stop it.
With that, I yield the floor.
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