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Press Release of Senator Cantwell
In Floor Speech, Cantwell Urges Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act
***VIDEO AVAILABLE*** Cantwell: ‘We are here with a clear message to the victims of domestic violence: We will stand with you.’ Bill has 61 cosponsors in the Senate, includes critical improvements to make sure all victims are protected
Thursday, April 26,2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) took to the Senate floor to urge the swift reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Previous reauthorizations of VAWA have been approved in a timely fashion with overwhelming support. The most recent reauthorization of the bill in 2005 passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent. Since the bill first passed in 1994, domestic violence has decreased by 53 percent. The reauthorization includes critical improvements to extend protection to individuals like women in tribal communities currently not protected.
Video of the floor speech available here.
“We want the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and today we want to tell victims of domestic violence that they are not alone,” said Cantwell from the floor. “We have to make sure that we are giving the tools to local governments, to law enforcement, the things that they need to protect the victims of domestic violence. Today, we are here with a clear message to the victims of domestic violence. And that is that we will stand with you.”
Cantwell has been a consistent champion for the reauthorization of VAWA. Earlier this month she joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) at the King County Sheriff’s office to highlight the benefits of the bill to local law enforcement. The last time VAWA was up for reauthorization in 2005 Cantwell cosponsored the legislation and visited advocates across the state to hear about the bill’s benefits.
The 2005 reauthorization included Cantwell’s International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA), which for the first time provided help to foreign fiancées in unsafe situations. Her provision made the criminal and marital backgrounds of prospective American husbands available to foreign fiancées. It also required international marriage brokers to provide information to foreign fiancées about their rights. The current reauthorization would strengthen those measures by requiring marriage brokers to disclose domestic violence background history to potential spouses. Cantwell introduced IMBRA following the deaths of Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell, mail order brides who were murdered in Washington state.
Senator Cantwell’s remarks as delivered from the Senate floor follow.
Thank you and I thank the Senator from Minnesota for her leadership on this issue. And for her great service on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I know as a former prosecutor she’s provided a great deal of leadership on many, many issues but having her voice on the Senate Judiciary Committee has been very, very important for our country.
And I come here to stand with my colleagues who are here, the women of the Senate to say that we are standing up for women across America.
We want the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and today we want to tell victims of domestic violence that they are not alone.
We have to make sure that we are giving the tools to local governments, to law enforcement, the things that they need to protect the victims of domestic violence.
Today, we are here with a clear message to the victims of domestic violence. And that is that we will stand with you.
And that we haven’t forgotten and we’re not going to let this bill be bogged down in political fighting.
But we are going to make sure that we continue to move ahead.
We already have the support of 61 Senators, 47 state attorney generals, and countless law enforcement individuals who are working across the nation to make sure that these victims have an advocate.
But we know that there is still opposition that remains.
And so I want to make sure that we address those concerns today.
For those who are opposed to the bill, I would ask you to look at my state, Washington, and the threat of domestic violence.
In Washington state, law enforcement received 30-THOUSAND domestic violence calls a year on average.
And in any given day in 2011, domestic violence programs served 1,884 people in Washington state.
That’s why the Violence Against Women Act is so important.
In Washington, it really does save lives.
People like Carissa, one of my constituents who was in an abusive relationship. She was allowed to flee with her then three year old daughter in 1998.
She joined me in Seattle recently to highlight the fact that the programs, the shelter and the help in starting a new life helped her escape that life of abuse.
I want to quote Carissa when she said “I am standing here alive today because VAWA works.”
Looking into Carissa’s eyes, you know this is not about statistics. And it’s not about politics.
It’s about providing a lifeline to women who want to have a different life.
The Act also helps crack down on violence against “mail order brides.”
It’s a story that we all know too well in the Pacific Northwest.
Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell were mail order brides who came to Washington state to start a new life with men they believed loved them.
Their lives here were brutally cut short when their husbands murdered them.
This happened after they had been subject to repeated domestic abuse.
And that’s why in 2005 I sponsored the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, which became part of the Violence Against Women Act.
It empowered foreign-born fiancées to learn if their spouse had a history of violent crime.
And it now has become part of the reauthorization that is this bill today. It includes enhancements that require marriage broker agencies to provide foreign fiancées with a record of any domestic violence that their potential spouse might have engaged in.
That way we can stop the abuse before it begins.
Opponents who say that the Violence Against Women Act would create immigration fraud and gives funds to those who don’t need it should consider the story of Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell.
Anastasia and Susana’s lives could have been saved had these provisions and protections been in place.
We should not deny immigrant women or trafficking victims resources that they need to prevent abuse.
Nor should we create barriers for them to get the safety they need.
That’s why we need to pass the Violence Against Women Act.
And we also need to make it clear that Native American women will receive protection.
Deborah Parker of the Tulalip Tribe came to the Capitol this week to explain why this is so important.
Deborah was a tireless champion for the people and for the victims of domestic abuse.
And she was here to tell her brave story.
She spoke eloquently as why women need to make sure that their perpetrators will be charged.
Consider that 39 percent of American Indian women will endure domestic violence in their lifetime. Compare that with figures that estimate 24 percent of all women in the U.S. will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.
So we need a Violence Against Women Act that will crack down on the domestic violence in tribal communities.
And this bill gives the tools so that we can make sure we go after those offenders.
Some have warned that this will trample on the rights of individuals to have due process and full protection.
That isn’t the case. So what we are doing here is making sure that there will be an investigation on reservations of the suspected abuse.
So I think it is time that we address the epidemic that’s happening in Indian country before it escalates more.
And that’s why we need to make sure that every woman in America has the rights under the Violence Against Women Act to be protected.
We have a long way to go to root out domestic abuse and violence.
But without these tools, like VAWA, we are not going to achieve our goals.
So it is time that we pass this legislation for people like Deborah, for people like Carissa, and to remember the lives of people like Susana and Anastasia King.
I thank the President and I yield the floor.