Thursday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Specifically, Murray discussed the ways important provisions in the Senate version of the bill will protect Native American women from domestic violence and sexual assault, and includes non-discrimination protection for all victims, regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:
“Thank you, Mr. President.
“I come to the floor this morning in order to continue the efforts started right here over 9 months ago -
“Efforts by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of this body – 68 Senators, in fact – to finally renew our national commitment to ending domestic violence and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
“It’s a bill that has successfully helped provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of women and families.
“And it’s a bill that consistently extends protections to new communities of vulnerable Americans each and every time it is reauthorized.
“So, Mr. President, I’d like to thank Senators Leahy and Crapo for making the Violence Against Women Act a priority for reintroduction in the 113th Congress --
“Because there is no reason this critical bill, that has such broad support, should be put on the back burner and delayed any further.
“Not while there are millions of women across our country who are excluded from the current law.
“In fact, for Native and immigrant women, and LGBT individuals – every moment our inclusive legislation to reauthorize VAWA is delayed, is another moment they are left without the resources and protection they deserve.
“Mr. President for women on tribal lands the challenges are particularly immense.
“Often in very rural areas, these women live on lands that are hours away from the nearest federal prosecutors.
“And for non-tribal members on these lands who perpetrate violent crimes against the women living there, this equates to nothing short of a safe-haven.
“A place where free from tribal jurisdiction, they can repeatedly commit horrific acts without being afraid of being brought to justice.
“It’s an injustice that Deborah Parker, the Vice-Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes in my home state, spoke to just outside this chamber last year in an effort to get House Republicans to listen.
“Through tears, she told a deeply personal story about how not only was she abused as a young girl but how she watched family members and friends suffer similar fates.
“She talked about how time and again the abusers went unprosecuted only to repeat their crimes over and over again.
“Sadly, she called herself ‘A Native American statistic.’
“Even more sadly, she was right.
“In fact, Mr. President, the numbers are staggering: 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, 2 in 5 of them are victims of domestic violence, and they are killed at 10 times the rate of the national average.
“And these shocking statistics aren’t isolated to one group of women–25-35% of women in the LGBT community experience domestic violence in relationships, and 3 in 4 abused immigrant women never entered the process to obtain legal status -- even though they were eligible -- because their abuser husbands never filed their paperwork.
“Mr. President, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“You know, I was so proud to have been serving in the Senate in 1994 when we first passed VAWA.
“Since we took that historic step, VAWA has been a great success in coordinating: victims’ advocates, social service providers, and law enforcement professionals to meet the immediate challenges of combating domestic violence.
“And along with bipartisan support, it has also received praise from - law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, victim service providers, faith leaders, health care professionals, advocates and survivors.
“Mr. President, VAWA has attained such broad support because it’s worked. It provides shelter and justice to battered women who need both, and it is the cornerstone of our efforts to combat domestic violence. We cannot pick winners and losers on who gets these critical protections. And we cannot afford any further delay. Not on this bill.
“And just like last Congress, we all know what it will take to move this bill forward -- leadership from Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor. The fate of the Violence Against Women Act still lays squarely on their shoulders.
“To date they have refused to listen to countless law enforcement and women’s groups, as well as moderate voices in their own party, who have called on them to pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive bill.
“In this new Congress, on this newly reintroduced bipartisan bill, the House Republican leadership faces the same choice and a second chance. They can either appease those on the far right of their caucus who would turn battered women away from care –
“Or they can stand with Democrats, moderate Republicans, and the many millions of Americans who believe that who a person loves, where they live, or their immigration status – shouldn’t determine whether they are protected from violence.
“In fact, in a recent editorial, the Seattle Times echoed this same sentiment saying, ‘House Republican leaders refused to bring the original Senate bill forward for a vote. They must not squander a second chance to save lives.’
“Mr. President – I couldn’t agree more. Too many women have been left vulnerable while House Republican leaders have played politics.
“It’s time for moderate Republican voices in the House to call on them to pass this bipartisan Senate bill immediately. Because women across the country’s lives literally depend on it.
“Thank you Mr. President.”