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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 -- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HELLER. Madam President, I rise today in support of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

I am glad the Senate is finally considering this important legislation, and I am proud to be the crucial 60th cosponsor of the bill. I commend Chairman Leahy for producing a bill that enjoys broad bipartisan support, and I look forward to swift passage of the VAWA reauthorization.

Violence in all its forms is unacceptable, but it is particularly horrifying when it takes place in the home, which should be a sanctuary for all who live there. Yet a recent CDC report found that nearly half of all women living in my home State of Nevada at the time of the survey experienced domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. This statistic is sickening and unacceptable. Women and children often feel powerless to escape abusive or dangerous situations, which too often end in tragedy.

My home State knows this sad reality all too well. Nevada is ranked first in the Nation for women murdered by men in domestic violence. Sadly, our State has appeared in the top three States in this horrific category in the last 7 years. Thankfully, organizations throughout the State of Nevada work tirelessly to help those jeopardized by domestic violence. While these groups have faced significant challenges due to funding cuts in recent years, they are doing their best with what they have to provide assistance to families who need it most.

According to last year's Nevada Census of Domestic Violence Services, nearly 500 Nevadans received crisis assistance through Nevada's domestic violence programs on a single day; 272 found refuge in emergency shelters or temporary housing; 204 received nonresidential assistance. Staff and volunteers fielded an average of six hotline calls every hour. Despite the best efforts of our State's domestic violence programs, 25 cases of unmet requests for services were reported on a single day due to shortage of funds and staff. That means thousands of Nevadans could not access the services they needed last year.

Nevada's struggling economy has limited State resources to help those who are affected by domestic violence. Reauthorization of VAWA will provide greater certainty for organizations that work hard every day to prevent and address domestic violence.

I trust this bill will ensure and enable domestic violence programs to plan for the future and serve even more Americans in need. Importantly, this bill will also further prevention efforts that, hopefully, will result in reducing domestic violence and help our Nation's most vulnerable.

I am also pleased this legislation reauthorizes programs vital to the National Council of Family and Juvenile Court Judges. The National Council has made a strong impact in courts throughout the Nation by teaching judges innovative strategies that equip them to appropriately assist families and young people who face significant hardships. I cannot be more proud of the positive changes the National Council is effecting in courtrooms and communities in Nevada and nationwide, and I am glad this bill will further their efforts.

As a fiscal conservative, I am also glad this bill was written with full awareness of the fiscal crisis our Nation is facing. This legislation repeals duplicative provisions and programs, creating a more efficient system. I encourage my colleagues to use this bill as a model when considering additional reauthorizations this year. We must not forget the need to implement commonsense budgetary practices across the board in order to put our Nation on a path to long-term fiscal responsibility.

While not perfect, I am pleased the Senate is proceeding with this bill and trust it will further the important goal of reducing violence in all its forms. This bipartisan effort is an example of how Members of Congress should be working together to solve the problems facing our Nation and protecting those who have no voice. I look forward to the passage of the VAWA reauthorization measure and believe it will truly make a difference in the lives of countless women in Nevada and throughout the United States.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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