Today, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) voted in favor of S. 47, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This legislation included the McCollum-Schock International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, which promotes and protects the rights of females in the developing world. Schock has championed this legislation since traveling to Ethiopia and seeing first-hand the devastating impact of child marriage on young girls in developing countries.
"Today, the House finally passed legislation that will ensure needed protections are made available to women who have fallen victim of domestic violence and sexual assault," said Congressman Aaron Schock. "There is absolutely no excuse for these too frequent violent acts that occur, including the thousands of reported cases every year in Central Illinois. It's incumbent upon our nation to provide assistance, programs, and to support safe havens, so that no one has to deal with the pain and terror alone from these horrific crimes."
"I applaud Rep. Schock for his support to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These funds help us, at The Center for Prevention of Abuse, work with over 15,000 students to stop the bullying and make better decisions in their relationships," said Martha Herm, Executive Director, The Center for Prevention of Abuse, Peoria, IL. "VAWA also helps us serve over 3,000 victims of domestic violence every year, not only at our shelters in Peoria and Pekin but also at the Peoria County Family Justice Center where we team up with law enforcement and prosecution to provide safety and support to victims of domestic violence and hold abusers accountable."
"We are very excited. Getting to this point has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people," said Vickie Smith, Executive Director, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence based in Springfield, IL. "While no piece of legislation is perfect, this version of VAWA will ensure victims receive the care and services they deserve. We are thrilled that VAWA will become law again."
Schock played a leading role in passage of this bill by authoring a section that requires the U.S. to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent child marriage and to promote the empowerment of girls at risk of child marriage in developing countries. An estimated 10 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year, some as young as 7. Schock has worked with Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum on the legislation.
"Child marriage is a tragedy happening on an epic scale around the world. This is a moral, economic and humanitarian crisis that doesn't receive nearly enough attention in our country," said Schock. "However, all that begins to change today with the passage of our legislation. On my trip with CARE to Ethiopia, I saw first-hand how child marriage devastates young girls physically and emotionally, while destroying their future. I am grateful we can finally tell the world that help is on the way."
In September 2010, Congressman Aaron Schock traveled with CARE on a learning tour to Ethiopia. The trip focused on the issue of maternal health, and the issue of child marriage was often raised at many of the sites visited. In some parts of the country, more than half the girls are married by the age of 15 and they are expected to have children the following year. Schock met many young girls, some as young as nine, who fled marriage and were trying to survive in Addis Ababa. During the visit, Schock visited a program at a community center called Biruh Tefsu, meaning "Brighter Future" in Ahmaric in Addis Ababa. As of 2010, this program has helped more than 15,000 girls from the ages of 7 to 24 by providing health information (topics include HIV prevention, sexual exploitation and abuse). Many of these girls had fled from rural areas to the city to avoid an arranged marriage. Schock also visited the surgical ward of Hamlin Fistula Hospital.
He later mentioned his visit on the House floor -- see video. The hospital, which has been operating for nearly four decades, has treated over 30,000 women -- many of them girls -- who had received operations on their fistulas, a birth canal injury often caused by obstructed labor. The hospital provides free fistula repair surgery to about 2,500 women each year.