Tester praises passage of bipartisan Violence Against Women Act

Senator stands with Montana women against domestic and sexual violence

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is praising the passage of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act that cuts the rates of domestic and sexual violence against women and children.

The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate 68 to 31, uses proven initiatives to empower women and help survivors recover. There were almost 5,000 cases of domestic violence or sexual assault in Montana in 2011, with 10 percent of incidents against children.

“Montana women and their children deserve every opportunity to fight back against their offenders and lead full, healthy lives,” Tester said. “By passing this bill, we will continue to make progress toward empowering communities to protect all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The bipartisan bill provides resources to strengthen law enforcement and prosecution, while giving communities the flexibility to respond to local needs. It also expands the list of acts defined as domestic violence and increases support for Indian Country, where women suffer from violent crime three and a half times the national average.

“Domestic violence takes a heavy toll and affects every community, every race, and every rung of the economic ladder,” Tester told his Senate colleagues this week. “This bill gives us an opportunity to help victims get out of dangerous situations and hold offenders accountable. ”

Tester, a cosponsor of the bill, highlighted the case of a Billings woman, Maria Martin, who rebuilt her life with the support of initiatives backed by the Violence Against Women Act after being attacked and threatened by her boyfriend.

Tester noted that the Violence Against Women Act maintains substantial funding flexibility for county and regional support groups. Without access to flexible federal funding, these local groups 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 a car 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.

The Senate’s bipartisan Violence Against Women Act as introduced is available online HERE. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Video of Tester’s floor speech on the Violence Against Women Act is available online HERE.