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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I rise today in support of S.47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This legislation provides much needed funding and support for law enforcement in our fight against domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

This bill has enjoyed wide bipartisan support over the years. Crimes against women and children will not be tolerated. Tuesday, the Senate once again approved VAWA with a 78-22 overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. I was proud to cosponsor the Violence Against Women Act and I urge my colleagues in the House to stand with America's women and children and quickly pass this critical legislation.

We have an obligation to do our part and protect women and children on the streets and in their homes. And this legislation provides the resources needed to further this very important effort. Reauthorizing this funding is particularly important for my home State of Louisiana, which unfortunately ranks among the top five States in incidences of domestic violence homicides in the Nation.

Last year, Louisiana received $4.9 million in Violence Against Women Act grants. These dollars helped fund critical programs through organizations like Wellspring Alliance for Family, which provides domestic violence and sexual assault services in Monroe, LA, and the Crescent House program in New Orleans. And these funds don't just supplement established programs. In fact, the vast majority wouldn't be possible in the first place without VAWA grants because many service providers count on more than 90 percent of their funding from the Federal Government.

Last year, Louisiana's 18 shelters provided more than 90,000 shelter nights, answered more than 38,000 crisis calls and despite serving 17,000 clients, the shelters had to turn away almost 2,000 people for lack of resources. In one national survey, 60 percent of the shelters in Louisiana reported that they lacked funding and 25 percent reported that they lacked shelter beds or housing for victims of domestic violence and their children.

These statistics are troubling. And I think they are an important part of why VAWA is so critical to women and children in communities across Louisiana and throughout our country. But numbers don't tell the whole story. You have to talk to the people on the ground, to the people who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping women and children in need, to truly appreciate the impact of this legislation.

For example, Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, visited a program in New Orleans. While visiting that program, Beth spoke with a young mother with her baby, only to discover that the baby was 6 days old. The young mother had been at the program for a few weeks and had been terribly abused when she was nearly 9 months pregnant. She and her baby survived but her child was born in shelter care. What would have been the outcome if a shelter had not been available?

The program that Beth visited, like every domestic violence program in Louisiana, was heavily supported by Violence Against Women Act dollars. Additionally, law enforcement officers, advocates, and prosecutors are all supported by funds available under the act. Louisiana's current budget challenges have serious implications for these vital services. In December 2012, Louisiana cut $1 million from the budget for these programs, jeopardizing their very existence.

Louisiana is not alone. Programs all over the Nation have experienced reductions in grants and losses in donations during the recent economic downturn. That is why we must reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. We have made significant progress in the last 20 years. We must continue to provide support to State and local government and the nonprofit entities that provide critical services.

I congratulate the people who are committed to providing important services to those who need them most. We owe a great deal of gratitude to leaders like Beth Meeks of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, leaders like Mary Claire Landry of the Family Justice Center in New Orleans, and like Valerie Bowman of the Family Justice Center in Monroe, and leaders in the law enforcement community like Tommy Clark, chair of the Louisiana Chiefs of Police Association Domestic Violence Committee.

I am proud that the Senate has taken action on this important piece of legislation and I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.


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