April 23, 2012

April Brings Shared Effort To End Violence

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

With April representing Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month and the week of April 22-28 signifying National Crime Victim's Rights Week, Idaho and national organizations are working to promote the need for communities to work together to raise awareness of victims' rights and services, prevent and respond to violence and honor victims and survivors.  This also provides a fitting time to advance legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that has helped victims and families in our communities by making substantial progress toward ending domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Throughout this month, Idaho advocacy organizations are teaming up to promote the message that one victim is too many, encouraging all of us to reach out and reminding victims that people care and help is available.  Victims of sexual assault who would like to speak with someone about options or learn about specific services available in their area, are encouraged to call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.  Additional information, including a list of abuse warning signs and links to other resources, can be accessed through my website:    https://www.crapo.senate.gov/issues/crime_law_judiciary/DomesticViolence.cfm

In addition to these ongoing awareness and prevention efforts, the U.S. Senate is expected to consider legislation to reauthorize the VAWA.  I am a long-time supporter of the programs provided through the VAWA because I have witnessed the tragic consequences of domestic violence in Idaho, and will continue to strongly advocate for victims.  For nearly 18 years, the VAWA has been the centerpiece of the federal government's commitment to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  The programs supported through the VAWA act as lifelines for those who have been impacted by domestic violence. 

In 2011, 22 Idaho deaths were domestic violence related.  VAWA-supported programs are working to decrease this number by focusing on our most vulnerable population-our children and teens.  The number of Idaho high school students reporting they have experienced physical violence by a dating partner has decreased since implementation of these programs.  These programs also work to stop the cycle of abuse by providing programs for children and teens exposed to violence. 

The VAWA reauthorization legislation will expand the law's focus on sexual assault, ensure access to services for all victims of domestic and sexual violence and address the crisis of domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, among other important steps.  The legislation also responds to these difficult economic times by consolidating programs, reducing authorization levels and adding accountability measures to ensure that federal funds are used efficiently and effectively. 

Historically, the VAWA reauthorization has received large bipartisan support.  This year, several changes in the bill have caused concern.  However, core provisions of this bill must be reauthorized.  Reforms and modifications that will broaden support for the bill and a robust open debate on the Senate floor will lead to better, stronger legislation.  I welcome the discussion and enactment of this legislation, as the reauthorization of the VAWA will better ensure access to critical services for victims of violent crime and the agencies and organizations providing this essential aid. 

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