Tester Stands Up for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse

Senator Supports Legislation that Makes Record Investments to Protect Families

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today supported legislation that will make record investments to strengthen services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Tester helped pass the 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act, which invests $481.5 million in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women.

During debate in Committee, Tester secured an amendment to the bill that focuses additional resources to increase assistance for survivors of violent crimes in Indian Country.

“Survivors of violent crimes do not receive the resources they need to fully recover from traumatic cases-especially in rural communities,” Tester said. “These additional funds will help prosecute violent criminals, ensure that survivors are receiving the support they need, and make our communities a safer place to raise a family.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

“These additional resources will support efforts on the ground to prevent violence and sexual assault while helping survivors and their families in Indian Country and across Montana,” said Kelsen Young, Executive Director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “I want to thank Senator Tester for his leadership on this important issue and for standing up for women, children, and families.”

The Office on Violence Against Women provides grants to local and state governments to prosecute domestic violence and sexual abuse crimes, as well as provide support services to survivors of violent crimes.

The Crime Victims Fund pays for itself by collecting criminal fines, forfeited appearance bonds, penalties, special assessments, gifts, and donations. Currently, every state in the country has access to a set-aside fund from the Crime Victims Fund, but unfortunately these state funds reach Native American communities at a very low rate, despite significant need in these areas.

According to an Indian Law and Order Commission report, one in five Native American children experience PTSD due to violence, and are over two times more likely to suffer violent trauma than non-Native American children.

Tester’s amendment will create a five percent set-aside fund from the Crime Victims Fund for Indian Country, which would be just over $145 million of the nearly $3 billion Crime Victims Fund. These resources will be accessed and administered by tribal governments. 

Last June, Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, held a Senate hearing on the importance of creating a tribal set-aside fund for survivors of violence in Indian Country. Working with Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) Tester also co-authored the SURVIVE Act, which would also address the needs of Native American victims in Indian Country. That bill was reported out of the Indian Affairs Committee in July.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, between 2010-2014, violent crime survivors in Indian Country received less than 0.5 percent of the Crime Victims Fund annually.