Eighteen years ago, Congress took an important step to addressing the rise in domestic violence and sexual assault in this country. I was proud to help lead the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and I am proud to add my name to the bipartisan bill to continue the program this year. The law is the backbone to provide highly-effective programs that have helped us gain ground in putting an end to domestic and sexual violence. This year's reauthorization legislation will continue to move us forward by strengthening the ability of states, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Since we passed this historic legislation, the rate of nonfatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 53 percent. And the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34 percent for women and 57 percent for men.
Still, our work is not done. In my home state of Montana, 98 people died from domestic violence between 2000 and 2010. These are not simply statistics, they are our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends.
Just last week in the Billings Gazette, Maria Martin shared her courageous story of survival and her inspiring work to turn her experience into a source of strength for others. Following her abuse, Maria earned her master's degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling and became active in the Billings Area Family Violence Task Force, the Montana State Coalition of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Carbon County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, and many similar organizations supported by Violence Against Women Act.
This year's reauthorization strengthens the legislation by specifically addressing the crisis of violence against women in tribal communities, who face extremely high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. It fixes the patchwork of criminal jurisdiction over those who assault Indian spouses and dating partners in Indian Country, toughens up assault statues, improves grant programs, and clarifies jurisdiction for civil protection orders.
The bill also consolidates 13 existing programs into four. This helps reduce administrative costs and adds efficiency in getting resources to law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers.
Survivors and advocates, like Maria, who work each and every day to put a stop to domestic and sexual violence tell us just how critical reauthorizing this law is. Congress reaffirmed its commitment to the Violence Against Women Act in 2000 and 2005, passing the measures unanimously in the United States Senate. Booting efforts to turn victims into survivors and holding perpetrators accountable by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is something we can all agree on again this year.
About Max Baucus U.S. Senator from Montana
Janice Shaw Crouse Author of 'Children at Risk' and 'Marriage Matters'
Laura Wood Writer at TheThinkingHousewife.com
Roy Speckhardt Executive Director of the American Humanist Association
John Cornyn U.S. Senator from Texas
Joseph R. Biden III Attorney General of Delaware