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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Vermont, Mr. Leahy, both for his kind words and the tremendous leadership he has shown over the years in first passing this legislation and for getting it reauthorized time and again and now, after the bill died in the last Congress because of the unwillingness of the House to act, for his willingness to bring it forward so early in the session so that hopefully we can make sure all of those people who are victims of domestic violence and all of those advocates, the law enforcement community that is working so hard, can have the support they need as a result of this legislation. So I thank Senator Leahy very much.

One of the reasons I am proud to support this bill is because it takes a truly comprehensive approach to the problem. It supports crisis centers for women and families to provide for immediate needs, such as shelter and counseling.

Last year the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence reported that they were able to provide shelter for 630 people who needed a place to sleep. Unfortunately, although they helped those 630, they had to turn away 721 because they didn't have room. So even with the help that is in the Violence Against Women Act, they had to turn away more people than they could help.

In the face of this need, sometimes it is easy to feel discouraged, to wonder whether we can really help at all. But when I speak to the brave women who are survivors who reached out for help to the advocates who have helped them rebuild their shattered lives, I know that we can and we must continue to make a difference.

The Violence Against Women Act helps us do this by providing funding for police officers and prosecutors so abusers are held responsible. Time and again, we have heard from law enforcement that the Violence Against Women Act helps them keep our communities safe and helps stop the cycle of abuse--law enforcement officers such as a detective sergeant in New Hampshire's largest city of Manchester, who is an investigator and a domestic violence advocate.

I brought with me today a chart that gives us a real picture of just how pervasive the problem of domestic violence is.

As we can see in the chart, one in four women in the United States is a victim of domestic violence.

Three women are murdered every day by their partners. This has been a very big problem in New Hampshire where half of all murders are domestic violence related.

Maybe the worst statistic on this chart shows that 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. I call this maybe the worst because, in fact, the cycle of domestic violence continues because so many children are exposed every year. They are not able to get out of this cycle. Let's recommit to shielding our children from senseless violence.

Another reason I am proud to support this bill is because it treats all victims equally, and it recognizes that members of the LGBT community are just as deserving of our support as any other survivor of domestic violence. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control shows us that those in LGBT relationships actually experience higher rates of violence than heterosexual couples. Let's recommit to helping all Americans regardless of whom they love or who has abused them.

Finally, I want to end with a quote from a woman in New Hampshire who sought help at a crisis center that receives funds from VAWA, the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention. Before she left that shelter--as she was putting her life back together--she told the case managers there:

You all have really made my life worth holding onto and not giving up. Please don't ever give up doing what you do because you truly saved my life.

I think that represents what we hear from so many survivors of domestic violence. Just as we are not going to give up on those survivors, we must not give up until this legislation is on President Obama's desk and signed into law. There are too many victims who are counting on us.

I certainly urge all of my colleagues in the Senate--as we did in the last session of Congress--to join me in supporting the Violence Against Women Act. I also hope our colleagues in the House will recognize how significant this challenge is and be willing to take up this legislation and get it done so survivors across this country will get the help they need.

Thank you very much.

I yield the floor.


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