FRANKLY SPEAKING: Keeping Protection in Place: Renewing the Violence Against Women Act
By the time you finish reading this column, 80 women across the United States will be victimized by some type of domestic violence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 2010 study found a woman is raped, physically abused or stalked in our country – almost every 10 seconds.
New Hampshire isn’t immune to the problem. The Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence says 44% of all domestic homicides committed in our state from 2000 through 2011 involved violence between partners. A total of 8,972 women reported being victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking in 2010; it grew to 9,439 last year.
When I visited a secure shelter in Portsmouth in January, I listened as women who had been victimized by abuse told me what they had experienced. I was deeply touched by their stories, and I admire them for summoning the courage to leave abusive situations and make a fresh start.
Back in 1994, Congress acted to address this problem when it passed the Violence Against Women Act. Now it has come before Congress for reauthorization to extend it. Let me share with you why this law is important.
First, it went a long way in taking things that were long kept as “family matters” and exposed them for what they really are: vicious, brutal crimes. It helped to shine the light of public attention on these problems; that encouraged people to begin talking publicly about them, which empowered victims to start stepping forward to seek help and justice.
Next, the Violence Against Women Act strengthened federal statutes with tough new criminal provisions. For example, it made it a felony to cross state lines with the intent to injure, harass or intimidate a spouse or partner. It also allowed victims to seek restitution from their abuser for medical services, physical and occupational therapy, temporary housing, lost income, attorneys’ fees, plus any costs incurred in obtaining a civil protection order.
The Violence Against Women Act works because it helps unite all the players who are involved with these problems and provides a framework for a coordinated response. It brings together law enforcement, the courts, victims’ services and the legal profession and gives them a vehicle for crafting a community-based approach. That enables them to focus on the needs where they live and to address problems and situations that are unique to their community.
It also supports efforts to protect victims, train the workers who assist them and promotes efforts to spread the word that help is available to women who need it.
This coordinated approach benefits more than women who are at risk. By encouraging an effective, coordinated comprehensive community-based approach, it produces better results for you as a taxpayer. It eliminates duplicative and redundant services, which lowers waste. That helps get the most value from limited public resources.
Important as that is, no one can put a price-tag on the physical and emotional safety this law provides to those who truly need it. No one can measure in dollars and cents alone the sense of fresh hope that comes from leaving an abusive situation and starting over anew.
What’s more, the Violence Against Women Act encourages prevention efforts that educate young people in hopes of preventing abuse before it begins.
Those of us who are parents and grandparents agree it would be wonderful if today’s children inherit a New Hampshire in the near future where domestic violence, abuse and all the terrible crimes directed at women are a remote and distant bad memory.
Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is a strong step toward making that goal a reality.
I look forward to reporting back to you in two weeks on the latest developments in Washington. In the meantime, if I can be of service to you, or if you want to share your thoughts, suggestions or concerns with me, please call either my district office in Manchester at (603) 641-9536 or my Washington office at (202) 225-5456, or contact me through my website at www.Guinta.House.Gov. You can also follow what I’m doing 24/7 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repfrankguinta and on Twitter at @RepFrankGuinta.
Until next time, please know that I am always on your side and am actively fighting for New Hampshire’s interests in Washington.