U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-4216 

Senator Coons urges Leader Reid to schedule Senate vote to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today urging for a full Senate vote on S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (VAWA). The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, 10-8, to advance the current reauthorization out of committee last month.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are evils that thrive in the darkness, which is why it is so important that public awareness and victims’ services programs supported by VAWA have led to a 51% increase in reporting by women and a 37% increase in reporting by men,” the Senator said in the letter.  “VAWA programs provide critical aid and support to victims and their families, as well as resources and training for the law enforcement and advocate communities.  Thanks in large part to VAWA, we have made great inroads in the fight to combat these crimes—the rate of intimate partner violence against women has declined by 53% and there has been a similar decline in violence against men.  Intimate partner violence resulting in death has decreased by 29%.”

“The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2011 builds upon these past successes and, by applying the lessons that we have learned over the past 18 years, will ensure that VAWA continues as an even more effective tool to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.  S. 1925 streamlines duplicative programs, improves tools for law enforcement, and, for the first time, specifies that assistance must be provided on a non-discriminatory basis.  Further, S. 1925 does all of this in a fiscally-responsible manner, reducing authorization levels by nearly 20%.”

Senator Coons, a cosponsor of the bill, convened a roundtable discussion in New Castle on February 21 to discuss the past, present and future of VAWA. Click here to learn more about the meeting:

http://bit.ly/y2UDD5. Senator Coons spoke about the bill on the Senate floor on February 2. Click here to watch or read it: http://bit.ly/zIYpag.

The text of the letter follows:

March 13, 2012

The Honorable Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Leader Reid:

I write to thank you for your continued support for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and for your longstanding commitment to protecting those who need our help.  While I recognize the challenge of juggling the many important issues competing for floor time, I am also writing to ask for your help in bringing S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, to the floor without delay. 

Since 1994, the VAWA has been an integral component of efforts to combat domestic violence and sexual assault in Delaware and throughout our nation.  Domestic violence and sexual assault are evils that thrive in the darkness, which is why it is so important that public awareness and victims’ services programs supported by VAWA have led to a 51% increase in reporting by women and a 37% increase in reporting by men.  VAWA programs provide critical aid and support to victims and their families, as well as resources and training for the law enforcement and advocate communities.  Thanks in large part to VAWA, we have made great inroads in the fight to combat these crimes—the rate of intimate partner violence against women has declined by 53% and there has been a similar decline in violence against men.  Intimate partner violence resulting in death has decreased by 29%. 

In Delaware, like many states, VAWA support is absolutely essential to the network of violence prevention, victim support, and offender prosecution efforts that have matured or come into existence there over the past 18 years.  As County Executive in New Castle County, I saw the value of these services firsthand. 

To gain a better understanding of what VAWA and its reauthorization means statewide, I recently hosted a roundtable discussion with a dozen representatives of Delaware’s state, county and local law enforcement agencies, community advocates, and non-profit organizations, to discuss the law. Participants agreed that VAWA has helped to foster an interwoven community of law enforcement and advocates who work together throughout the state to aid families and reduce domestic violence and sexual assault.  For instance, equipment purchased with funds help police better document injuries to provide stronger evidence for prosecutors.  VAWA-funded programs also monitor and enforce compliance with post-conviction treatment requirements for offenders. 

VAWA funds have enabled Delaware’s law enforcement to attend a domestic violence training conference, at which they learned about cutting-edge offender risk assessment techniques.  The lessons learned at that conference culminated in the passage of a new statewide anti-strangulation law and helped make Delaware a leader in progressive domestic violence legislation.

While VAWA has accomplished much, reauthorization is necessary to consolidate these gains and to make yet more progress.  If we do not reauthorize VAWA, the harms will fall most severely upon our rural communities and some of our most at-risk citizens. In the City of Lewes, that 13-member police department lacks the resources to offer comprehensive in-house domestic violence training.  Lewes depends on VAWA funding to bring in outside speakers to train officers.  Likewise, the Sexual Assault Network of Delaware depends on VAWA funding to pay the salary of its one full-time counselor for Sussex County, Delaware—a single counselor for a county of nearly 200,000 people.  VAWA funding in Delaware supports services that, during one day in 2011, provided 68 domestic violence victims with emergency refuge, provided counseling and other non-residential services to 46 victims, and answered 20 calls to the domestic violence hotline.

The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2011 builds upon these past successes and, by applying the lessons that we have learned over the past 18 years, will ensure that VAWA continues as an even more effective tool to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.  S. 1925 streamlines duplicative programs, improves tools for law enforcement, and, for the first time, specifies that assistance must be provided on a non-discriminatory basis.  Further, S. 1925 does all of this in a fiscally responsible manner, reducing authorization levels by nearly 20%.

None of this will be possible, however, if we allow partisan obstructionism to prevent the Senate’s consideration of S. 1925.  VAWA always has been bipartisan legislation and, even in today’s partisan times, S. 1925 enjoys the support of at least five Republican Senators.  If it is brought to the floor, I pledge myself to helping in whatever ways that I can to continue to build the coalition in support of VAWA to ensure its passage.

                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                Christopher A. Coons

                                                                                United States Senator

 

Tags:
Police
Judiciary Committee
Women
Law Enforcement
Violence Against Women Act
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