Tester holds panel discussion to address domestic violence

Senator: “We must stop the cycle of violence”

(BOZEMAN, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester today held a panel discussion in Bozeman to hear from survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as providers who connect survivors with the resources they need.

The goal of the event was to hear from folks on the ground about how the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is working for them and what more can be done to assist domestic violence shelters, social workers, prosecutors and law enforcement as they work together to prevent violent crimes.

Tester’s support for VAWA dates back several years to when he co-sponsored and pushed to reauthorize the legislation. More recently, Tester – a member of the Appropriations Committee – asked Congress to fully fund VAWA for the 2015 budget cycle.

“The Violence Against Women Act continues to support victims of abuse,” Tester said. “We must stop the cycle of violence by giving folks on the ground the tools they need to make a positive impact on the lives of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

The panelists told Tester that 39 percent of women and 32 percent of men will become victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives and that there is much more to be done to educate the community about the impacts of violence.

Tester was joined by several employees from the Bozeman based domestic violence shelter HAVEN, state legislators, law enforcement and social advocates.

The panelists included:
• Jenn Bain – HAVEN Co-Director
• Ania Bartkowiak – Counselor and Client Advocate
• Elizabeth Scholl – Survivor
• Shannon Foley – Gallatin County Deputy County Attorney
• Sharon Navas – Meadowlark Elementary School Principal

VAWA provides training and educational sessions for parents, teachers, law enforcement and other professionals to prevent, identify and respond to domestic and sexual violence. It also gives tribes more tools to prosecute domestic violence on reservations. In 2013, Montana received $8.3 million in VAWA funding.