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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. HAGAN. Mr. President, I am proud to join my colleagues today in support of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. I do so not just as a Senator but also as the mother of two daughters.

This critical legislation has been held up for far too long, and it is past time for reauthorization. We have a serious responsibility to ensure that women and families are protected.

The rates of violence and abuse in our country are astounding and totally unacceptable. According to a 2010 CDC study, domestic violence affects more than 12 million people each year. Across the United States 15 1/2 million children live in homes in which domestic violence has occurred. In my home State of North Carolina alone, 73 women and children are killed on average every year because of domestic violence.

Let me say that number one more time. Seventy-three women and children are killed every year due to domestic violence. These are alarming statistics, and we must act now to address them.

Since 1994, VAWA programs, and in particular the STOP Program that provides grants for services, training, officers, and prosecutors, have made tremendous progress in helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and have transformed our criminal justice system and victim support services.

These grants have assisted law enforcement and prosecutors in tracking down perpetrators and bringing them to justice. They have also saved countless lives and provided needed services to victims of these violent acts.

In one instance in my State a man was on pretrial release after being charged with stalking his wife. Thanks to this STOP grant funding, he was being monitored electronically, and he was caught violating the conditions of his release when he went to his estranged wife's home. The supervising officer was immediately notified of this violation, and police officers found the man with the help of a GPS and arrested him in his estranged wife's driveway. Because of this VAWA program, we had one less victim in my State. This is just one example of how VAWA is protecting women and saving lives.

Title V of this bill includes legislation that I sponsored in the last Congress, the Violence Against Women Health Initiative Act, which updates and improves the health care system's response to domestic violence and sexual assault. My provision is simple: It provides training and education to help the health care professionals respond to violence and abuse. By equipping doctors and nurses to recognize the signs of domestic abuse and make sure they have the training to respond, we can better care for our survivors and prevent future crimes. It also consolidates existing programs to streamline and strengthen the health care system's response to violent crimes.

Since my time in the North Carolina State Senate, I have been dedicated to reducing the backlog of unanalyzed rape kits. This bill includes the bipartisan SAFER Act, which helps fund audits of untested DNA evidence and reduces this backlog of rape kits.

Before my efforts in the State senate, what used to happen in North Carolina, and continues to happen today in many States, is that a woman would be raped, she would go to the hospital, DNA would be collected and then placed in a box. Then that box would go and sit on a shelf in a police department or in a sheriff's department totally unanalyzed unless the woman could identify who attacked her.

I ask you: What other victims in America have to identify the attacker before authorities will take action? None.

When I first brought this issue to the forefront, I was told there was not enough money for all of these rape kits to be tested. We found that funding in North Carolina. Now with the help of the SAFER Act, our law enforcement agencies will have the ability to track and prioritize their untested DNA evidence to ensure that victims can find their perpetrators and hold them accountable, and we can remove violent criminals from the streets.

Unfortunately, until Congress acts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, the well-being of women across the country hangs in the balance. This bill has never been a partisan football, and there is no reason it should be today. I hope we will pass this bill swiftly and without further disputes. We must ensure this bill's passage for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking not only in North Carolina but around the country.

Finally, I do want to thank the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and North Carolina's State and local law enforcement agencies that have truly been leaders in combating this problem. I applaud them for all the work they have done to reduce and address the incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault, and I am grateful for the work they do every day on the front lines of this issue.

So I am asking my colleagues to join me in moving the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act through the Senate swiftly and without further delay. Millions of victims across the country are waiting for us to enact this lifesaving legislation, and we simply cannot wait any longer.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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