(Washington DC) – Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate advocating passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization S.1925 and in support of his companion bill, the Internet Abuse Act, that expands law enforcement tools for prosecuting criminals who use the internet as an instrument for harassment and abuse.
A transcript of the floor speech is below:
“… The Violence Against Women Act is critically important. It is bipartisan legislation that gives victims of domestic violence and sexual assault access to the services that they so desperately need. This crucial law supports both the organizations that provide these services and the law enforcement agencies that assist the victims as they pursue justice. As a law enforcement official, I saw firsthand in my duties as state Attorney General for Connecticut how important and practical and meaningful this law is. We have a responsibility not only to authorize but also to strengthen VAWA right away.
“Some 17 years have passed since the original Violence Against Women Act, and we’ve made great strides, but we cannot be complacent in our efforts to protect our nation’s children and women. In a time when the women in our great nation face relentless attacks on their rights, we cannot afford to lose ground that we have gained over the last 17 years. We must address the grave concerns of domestic violence and sexual assault, which are in no way partisan. There is nothing Republican or Democrat about a victim who suffers from this grave ill, as Chairman Leahy has so eloquently and powerfully stated.
“This bill provides resources to help a number of organizations in Connecticut fulfill their vital mission to protect more than 54,000 – I’m going to repeat that because that is a staggering number – 54,000 domestic violence victims in Connecticut alone. Organizations in Connecticut received nearly $5 million in Fiscal Year 2011 from the Violence Against Women Act, but many domestic programs in Connecticut and around the country are reporting huge staff shortages and resource needs that are necessary to respond to the hundreds of thousands of women in need. It is truly an epidemic in this country that we must counter and fight just as we would an epidemic of infectious bacteria or other kinds of insidious sources. VAWA would give these service providers the resources they need to protect women, men, children, victims of domestic and sexual violence. And we have the opportunity to commit to end domestic violence with updates and stronger measures in this act.
“I’m proud to have introduced a companion bill to the Violence Against Women Act that enhances current law for the internet age. This legislation, the Internet Abuse Act, expands the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminals who use the internet to intimidate, threaten, harass, and facilitate acts of sexual violence against women, children, and others. The VAWA proposal before us includes key concepts from the Internet Abuse Act, such as one key provision that strengthens existing provisions against cyber stalking. We must take this act to the new frontier of internet abuse and make it real against the very pernicious and reprehensible cyber stalking, and cyber harassment. Cyber assault that is as much a fact of life as the other forms of domestic abuse. This provision gives law enforcement the able to go after more real instances of criminal harassment and abuse on-line.
“Though the VAWA reauthorization in 2000 included provisions to deal with domestic abuse in later life, our nation’s elders continue to be victims of domestic violence. I am pleased that provisions that I drafted with my distinguished colleague, Senator Kohl, which improve the protections for elder victims of domestic abuse, have been included in this reauthorization of VAWA.
“It would be simply unconscionable to deny any victim of domestic violence the support he or she needs. For that reason, I strongly support the provisions that ensure that all victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, have access to lifesaving services. We are talking about lifesaving services. Nobody ever asks, in my experience, what the sexual orientation of a victim was when that person was, in fact, battered, brutalized and there should be no such question that lesbian, bisexual, transgendered individuals experience domestic violence at the same rate as the general population. And yet these individuals face discrimination as they attempt to access victims’ services. That should not be acceptable in this country. In fact, a survey found 45% of LGBT victims were turned away when they sought help from a domestic violence shelter. Clearly, there is a real need to improve the access and availability of services for this vulnerable population, and I support measures in the act that ensure that victims of domestic and sexual violence, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification can access those services they need.
“There are protections in addition, broader protections for Native American communities. This bill makes great improvements to the law enforcement tools available to Native American populations. And members of the tribal council of the tribal nation in Connecticut have appealed to me to protect the tribal provisions in S. 1925 and make sure that any amendments are barred if they weaken those protections.
“In short, all victims of domestic violence deserve access to the services that they need, and many of my colleagues here today I know agree. In fact, 61 from both sides of the aisle have signed on to the Violence Against Women Act, and I thank every single one of them …”
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