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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, in the two decades since the Violence Against Women Act passed--it passed with a very strong vote, a bipartisan vote here in the Senate, and then in the House at the time--incidents of domestic violence have fallen by more than half, by as much as 53 percent. The law has helped millions of women and children escape their attackers and get the justice they deserve. It is a landmark piece of legislation. That is why Congress twice reauthorized this legislation without a hint of controversy or a moment of delay.

But despite the overwhelming evidence this legislation saves lives and protects women, House Republicans used every procedural trick known to Congress to block its reauthorization last Congress. Despite strong bipartisan support here in the Senate, Republicans in the House refused to join the effort to renew our national commitment to ending domestic violence.

Allowing partisan delays to put women's lives at risk is simply shameful. If House Republicans believe domestic violence is no longer a problem in this country, they are wrong. Every day three women in America die at the hands of their abusers. Every day many women escape with their lives but with the physical and emotional scars of the abuse that exists.

More than one-third of women in this country have been victims of violence, sexual assault, or stalking by a partner--one-third of the women in this country have been victims of violence, sexual assault, or stalking by a partner. It is in our power to help, and it is unthinkable that Republicans in the House would prevent us from taking action and again refuse to do anything, as they did last Congress.

Victims of violence and law enforcement officials who support them have already waited too long for Congress to act. This week, the Senate will pass a strong bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This is something that was put forward by the chairman of that committee, the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy. He has worked hard on it. He did everything possible last Congress to get this done. Because of the House's intransigence, they refused to do anything in spite of his work.

I thank Chairman Leahy, Senator Murray, and the women of the Senate for their leadership on this issue. I am pleased so many of my Senate colleagues have expressed support for swift action on this legislation, and especially so many Senate Republicans have supported this legislation. The Senate will not allow women to be denied the protection they need and deserve.

We must ensure law enforcement has the means to stop these horrible crimes. We must guarantee communities have the resources to support victims regardless of sexual orientation, immigration status, or where they live, as they heal. Every victim of domestic violence deserves the same vigorous protections under the law. Because of the unique nature of the crime, combating domestic violence and protecting those affected also requires unique tools. Reauthorizing this act would help law enforcement continue to develop effective strategies to prosecute cases involving violent crimes against women. It would provide funding for shelters and transitional housing programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and help victims become independent. It would make legal assistance available to victims of violence and safeguard children and youth affected by dating violence and stalking.

Although the Violence Against Women Act expired in 2011, many of the programs established under the law have been funded by continuing resolutions. But not everything. A full reauthorization of this law is necessary to ensure authorities have all the resources they need to fight domestic violence. So I hope the Senate's bipartisan action this week will send a strong message to House Republican leaders that further partisan delay is unacceptable.

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