U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp released the following statement after she voted for and the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
"I was proud today to help pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is one of the first two bills I cosponsored. This legislation is critically important to North Dakota families, particularly for Native American women. A lot of people tend to be critical of Federal programs, but this is one that has made a real difference. Since VAWA was enacted in the 1990s, the number of domestic violence incidences has dropped by more than 50 percent. It is my hope that the House will follow our lead and work in a bipartisan manner to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act."
The bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA Reauthorization), S. 47, significantly strengthens the ability of the Federal Government, the States, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As with the previous reauthorizations of VAWA in 2000 and 2005, this bill responds to the realities and needs reported by those who work with victims every day to make VAWA even more effective for all victims. This bill is nearly identical to S.1925 from the 112th Congress, which passed out of the Senate with broad bipartisan support, but was never taken up in the House.
A core principle of VAWA since its inception has been combating violence against Native women. The Reauthorization will work to strengthen the existing programs addressing the continuing crisis of violence against women in tribal communities. Women in tribal communities face domestic violence and sexual assault at a much higher rate than those faced by the general population. The bill includes language to provide tribal governments the force they need to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators who commit these crimes on tribal land.