(Washington, D.C.) - Today, in continuing her efforts to shine light on a critical issue for women across America, U.S. Senator Patty Murray gave a speech on the Senate floor urging the House to move forward with reauthorization of the Senate's bipartisan, inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the Senate three months ago with 68 votes.
“We are not going to back down,” said Senator Murray. “Not while there are thousands of women across our country that are excluded from the current law. In fact, for Native and immigrant women, and LGBT individuals – every moment our inclusive legislation to reauthorize VAWA is delayed, is another moment they are left without the resources and protection they deserve.”
Senator Murray discussed the ways important provisions in the Senate version of the bill will protect Native American women from domestic violence and sexual assault, and includes non-discrimination protection for all victims, regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. Senator Murray also shared stories of domestic violence survivors from Washington state who would be left out of the House version of VAWA, including a transgender survivor, an immigrant survivor, and a Native American survivor.
The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:
“Thank you, Mr. President.
“I come to the floor today in order to continue the efforts started right here earlier this week.
“Efforts by the women of the Senate – and the men who support the Violence Against Women Act – to bring a simple, straightforward message to our friends in the House of Representatives:
“’Stop the games and pass the inclusive, bipartisan Senate VAWA bill without delay.’
“A bill that has successfully helped provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of women and families.
“A bill that passed the Senate 3 months ago TODAY by a vote of 68-31.
“And a bill that has consistently included bipartisan provisions to address those that are not being protected by it, each and every time it is reauthorized.
“But here we are, back on the Senate floor, urging support for a bill that should not be controversial.
“And just as we did Tuesday, just as we’re doing today, and just as we’ll do in the coming weeks – we will be making sure this message resonates loud and clear -- both here in D.C. and back in our home states.
“Because we are not going to back down. Not while there are thousands of women across our country who are excluded from the current law.
“In fact, for Native and immigrant women, and LGBT individuals – every moment our inclusive legislation to reauthorize VAWA is delayed, is another moment they are left without the resources and protection they deserve.
“The numbers are staggering: 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, 2 in 5 of them victims of domestic violence, and they are killed at 10 times the rate of the national average.
“And these shocking statistics aren’t isolated to one group of women: 25-35% of women in the LGBT community experience domestic violence in relationships, and 3 in 4 abused immigrant women never entered the process to obtain legal status -- even though they were eligible -- because their abuser husbands never filed their paperwork.
“This should make it perfectly clear to our colleagues in the other chamber that their current inaction has a real impact on the lives of women across American affected by violence –
“Women like Deborah Parker.
“Deborah is the Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribe in my home state of Washington.
“Mr. President, Deborah was repeatedly abused, starting at a very young age, by a non-tribal man who lived on her reservation. Not until after the abuse stopped around the 4th grade did Deborah realize she wasn’t the only child suffering at the hands of her assailant. At least a dozen other young girls had fallen victim to this man.
“A man who was never arrested for these crimes; never brought to justice; and still walks free today.
“All because he committed these heinous acts on the reservation – and as someone who is not a member of a tribe, it is an unfortunate reality that he is unlikely to be held liable for his crimes.
“Mr. President, reauthorizing an inclusive VAWA is a matter of fairness.
“Deborah’s experience – and the experience of the other victims of this man – do not represent an isolated incident. For the narrow set of domestic violence crimes laid out in VAWA, tribal governments should be able to hold accountable defendants that have a strong tie to the tribal community.
“Mr. President, I was glad to see Republican Congresswoman Judy Biggert and several of her Republican colleagues echo these sentiments last week.
“In a letter sent to Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor, the Republican Members explicitly called on their party leadership to end this gridlock and accept ‘Senate-endorsed provisions that would protect all victims of domestic violence, including college students, LGBT individuals, native Americans and immigrants.’
“So today we urge Speaker Boehner to listen to the Members of his own caucus and join us in taking a major step to uphold our government’s promise to protect its people.
“People like Maribel and Maria – two more constituents from my home state of Washington.
“As a transgender woman, Maribel has been subjected to random acts of violence by family, boyfriends, and strangers. She has been mugged and attacked on the street, suffered broken bones, cuts, bruises, raped and left for dead.
“What’s even more concerning, Maribel said, ‘Not once have the police ever conducted an investigation, much less shown any concern for me. Rather my experience with law enforcement is one of harassment and abuse. I have been ostracized by family and friends…in fact it is most of my first memories.’
“She experiences hate daily from those that think that she has no place in society.
“And then there’s Maria. Shortly after their wedding, Maria’s husband became a different man. His abuse ranged from emotional to physical and on two separate occasions he held a knife to Maria’s throat threatening to kill her. He constantly threatened Maria with deportation back to Jamaica.
“And eventually, he refused to attend the interview with immigration authorities necessary for Maria to obtain a green card. Her application was denied for his lack of attendance.
“Angry but scared, Maria found the courage to ask her husband for a divorce. In response, he raped her. Maria moved out of their house, though her husband repeatedly tracked her down and assaulted her. To save her own life, Maria fled to Seattle with her two children.
“Mr. President, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“You know, I was so proud to have been serving in the Senate in 1994 - when we first passed VAWA.
“Since we took that historic step, VAWA has been a great success in coordinating victims’ advocates, social service providers, and law enforcement professionals to meet the immediate challenges of combating domestic violence.
“And along with its bipartisan support, it has received praise from law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, victim service providers, faith leaders, health care professionals, and advocates and survivors.
“VAWA has attained such broad support because it’s worked.
“Where a person lives, their immigration status, or who they love should not determine whether or not perpetrators of domestic violence are brought to justice. These women cannot afford any further delay. Not on this bill.
“Mr. President, on Tuesday the New York Times ran an editorial on this bill that gets to the heart of where we are.
“It began by saying that ‘House Republicans have to decide which is more important: protecting victims of domestic violence or advancing the harsh antigay and anti-immigrant sentiments of some on their party’s far right. At the moment, harshness is winning.’
“But the editorial also echoed our sentiments saying it doesn’t have to be this way.
“It pointed out that ‘In May, 15 Senate Republicans joined with the chamber’s Democratic majority to approve a strong reauthorization bill.’
“And finally it ends with what we all know it will take to move this bill forward.
“Leadership from Congressman Boehner
“And Mr. President, today the effort we started here in the Senate on Tuesday – an effort that will continue for as long as it takes – is a call for the very same thing.
“It’s time for Speaker Boehner to look beyond ideology and partisan politics.
“It’s time for him to look at the history of a bill that again and again has been supported and expanded by Republicans and Democrats.
“It’s time for him to the right thing and pass our inclusive, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act.
“Because women across the country’s lives literally depend on it.
“Thank you Mr. President.