Tester, Baucus call on Congress to pass Violence Against Women Act
(U.S. SENATE) - Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus say enough is enough: the House of Representatives must pass the Violence Against Women Act to reduce domestic and sexual violence in Montana and nationwide.
Tester and Baucus are reintroducing the bipartisan measure to reauthorize and strengthen the legislation protecting women and children. The bill received an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the Senate last spring, but the House of Representatives did not agree to it.
With almost 5,000 cases of domestic violence or sexual assault in Montana in 2011, Tester's and Baucus' message to Congress is simple: step up and protect women and children from violence.
"Every day Congress waits puts another Montana woman at risk," Tester said. "Women and children should have every opportunity to live in safety and lead full, healthy lives. This bill empowers our communities to protect all our citizens and holds offenders accountable."
"It is an absolute disgrace that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime," said Baucus, who supported the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994. "Our mothers, daughters and sisters deserve to know we will not tolerate violence against them."
The Violence Against Women Act provides resources to strengthen law enforcement and prosecution. It also expands the definition of domestic violence and increases support in Indian Country, where women suffer from violent crime three and a half times the national average.
Without access to the flexible federal funding in the Violence Against Women Act, local groups also would have to send women in rural Montana to the nearest agency for help, often at least 90 miles away. This is particularly problematic for women without vehicles in threatening situations.
Since the Violence Against Women Act was enacted in 1994, the annual rate of domestic violence has dropped more than 50 percent. The bill, which also addresses domestic and sexual violence against men, was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.