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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Minnesota for her leadership on this issue and for her great service on the Senate Judiciary Committee. I know she, as a former prosecutor, has provided a great deal of leadership on many issues, but having her voice on this Senate Judiciary Committee has been very important for our country.

I come to the floor to stand with my colleagues who are here, the women of the Senate, to say we are standing up for women across America. We want the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Today we wish to tell victims of domestic violence that they are not alone. We have to make sure we are giving to local governments and to law enforcement the tools they need to protect victims of domestic violence.

Today we are here with a clear message to victims of domestic violence which is that we will stand with them. We haven't forgotten, and we are not going to let this bill be bogged down in political fighting. We are going to make sure we continue to move ahead. We already have the support of 61 Senators, 47 State attorneys general, and countless law enforcement individuals who are working across the Nation to make sure these victims have an advocate. However, we know there is still opposition that remains, so I want to make sure we address those concerns today.

For those who oppose the bill, I ask them to look at my State of Washington and the threat of domestic violence. In Washington State, law enforcement receives 30,000 domestic violence calls a year, on average, and on any given day in 2011, domestic violence programs served 1,884 people in Washington State. That is why the Violence Against Women Act is so important. In Washington, it really does save lives.

People such as Carissa, one of my constituents, who was in an abusive relationship, was allowed to flee with her then 3-year-old daughter in 1998. She joined me in Seattle recently to highlight the fact that the programs, shelter, and the assistance in starting a new life helped her escape that life of abuse.

I wish to quote Carissa: ``I am standing here alive today because VAWA works.'' Looking into Carissa's eyes, we know this is not about statistics, and it is not about politics. It is about providing a lifeline to women who want to have a different life.

VAWA also helps crack down on violence against mail order brides. It is a story that we all know too well in the Pacific Northwest. Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell were mail order brides who came to Washington State to start a new life with men they believed loved them. Their lives were brutally cut short when their husbands murdered them. This happened after they had been subject to repeated domestic abuse. That is why, in 2005, I sponsored the International American Broker Regulation Act which became part of the Violence Against Women Act. It empowered more and more fiances to learn if their spouses had a history of violent crime, and it now has become part of the reauthorization that is this bill. It includes enhancements that require marriage broker agencies to provide foreign-born fiances with a record of any domestic violence their potential spouses might have engaged in. That way we can stop the abuse before it begins.

Opponents who say the Violence Against Women Act would create immigration fraud and give funds to those who don't need it should consider the story of Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell. Anastasia's and Susana's lives could have been saved had these provisions and protections been in place. We should not deny immigrant women or trafficking victims resources they need to prevent abuse

nor should we create barriers for them to get the safety they need. That is why we need to pass the Violence Against Woman Act.

We also need to make it clear that Native American women will receive protection. Deborah Parker of the Tulalip Tribes came to the Capitol this week to explain why this is so important. Deborah is a tireless champion for the victims of domestic abuse, and she was here to tell her brave story. She spoke eloquently as to why women need to make sure their perpetrators will be charged.

Consider that 39 percent of American Indian women will endure domestic violence in their lifetimes. Compare that with figures that estimate that 24 percent of all women in the United States will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. So we need a Violence Against Women Act that will crack down on the domestic violence in tribal communities. This bill gives the tools so we can make sure we go after those offenders.

Some have warned this will trample on the rights of individuals to have due process and full protection. That is not the case. What we are doing is making sure there will be an investigation on reservations of the suspected abuse. I think it is time we address this epidemic that is happening in Indian Country before it escalates more. That is why we need to make sure every woman in America has the rights under the Violence Against Women Act to be protected.

We have a long way to go to root out domestic abuse and violence. But without these tools, such as VAWA, we are not going to achieve our goals. It is time we pass this legislation for people such as Deborah, for people such as Carissa, and to remember the lives of people such as Susana Blackwell and Anastasia King.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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