U.S. Senator Kay Hagan today praised Senate passage of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA), a life-saving bill that protects victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since VAWA first passed in 1994, the incidence of domestic violence in the U.S. has decreased by 53 percent. The Senate bill strengthens and streamlines existing programs that protect women and incorporates new approaches, including Hagan's Violence Against Women Health Initiative.
The bill passed by a vote of 78 to 22.
"VAWA serves as a lifeline for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in North Carolina and across the country," said Hagan. "This reauthorization updates and improves VAWA to better protect women and children, and I'm pleased that it includes my provision to help health care providers treat and respond to violence and abuse. Unfortunately, until the House takes action, the well being of women and families continues to hang in the balance. VAWA has never been a partisan football, and there is no reason it should be today. I urge the House of Representatives to act swiftly to protect the millions of victims across the country who are waiting for this live-saving legislation to be enacted."
Since its inception, VAWA has transformed our criminal justice system and victim support services, helping to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence. The reauthorization bill significantly strengthens the ability of the federal government, states, law enforcement and service providers to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking and incorporates new provisions, such as Hagan's bill, to make VAWA work better for all victims.
Hagan's Violence Against Women Health Initiative raises awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault among health care providers, allowing them to better identify, assess, and treat victims. This year's bill also includes the bipartisan SAFER Act, which provides for audits of untested rape kits and gives law enforcement resources to help reduce the backlog of rape kits - something Hagan fought for in North Carolina when she served in the state Senate.
"We would like to thank Senator Hagan for her unwavering support of sexual violence survivors," said Monika Johnson Hostler, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "She has continued to show her support by sponsoring the bi-partisan VAWA and her leadership on VAWA health. VAWA has transformed the criminal justice response to survivors of sexual violence and increased prevention efforts. Each reauthorization has risen to the challenge of reaching survivors without respect of person."
Last week, Hagan spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to address the alarming rates of violence and assault in the U.S. and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. According to a 2010 CDC study, domestic violence affects more than 12 million people each year. Across the country, 15.5 million children live in homes in which domestic violence has occurred. In North Carolina alone, 73 women and children are killed on average every year because of domestic violence.
Hagan's floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
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 as a 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 unacceptable. According to a 2010 CDC study, domestic violence affects more than 12 million people each year.
Across the United States, 15 and a half million children live in homes in which domestic violence has occurred. And in my home state of North Carolina alone, 73 women and children are killed on average every year because of domestic violence.
These are alarming statistics and we must act now to address them.
Since 1994, VAWA programs, in particular the STOP - Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors - grants, 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 pre-trial release after being charged with stalking his wife. Thanks to STOP grant funding, he was being monitored electronically and 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 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 I sponsored in the 112th Congress, the Violence Against Women Health Initiative Act, which updates and improves the healthcare system's response to domestic violence and sexual assault. My provision is simple - it provides training and education to help health 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 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 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 reduce this backlog of "rape kits."
Before my efforts in the state Senate, what used to happen in North Carolina, and continues to happen in many places, is that DNA evidence would be taken from a woman who had been raped, placed in a box, and then left on a shelf unanalyzed, unless the woman could identify her attacker.
I ask you: what other victims in America have to identify their 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. Well, we found that funding - and now, with the help of the SAFER Act, our local 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 that 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, in North Carolina and the rest of the country.
Finally, I would like 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, who have been true leaders in combatting this problem in my state. I applaud them for all of the work they have done to reduce and address the incidence of domestic violence and sexual assault, and I am grateful for the work they do everyday on the front lines of this issue.
I ask 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 life-saving legislation, and we simply cannot wait any longer.