The numbers are staggering. Montana reported an average of 10 crimes related to domestic violence every day in 2010. According to the Montana Board of Crime Control, 3,732 Montanans — mostly women and children — suffered violence at the hands of members of their own families. The number of unreported crimes, of course, is much higher.
This week in Washington, D.C., lawmakers are debating whether to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The fact that a debate is even needed speaks volumes about the problems going on back there — and we want to thank Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus for publicly supporting and advocating for this important law.
The Violence Against Women Act became law in 1994. It provides important funding for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking through emergency shelters, better law enforcement, crisis hotlines and legal services. The Violence Against Women Act expired last year, and now it’s up to our congressional delegation to reauthorize this life-saving law.
In a recent letter to members of Congress, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock — along with numerous other attorneys general from both parties — said the Violence Against Women Act “has shined a bright light on domestic violence, bringing the issue out of the shadows and into the forefront of our efforts to protect women and families.”
Sen. Tester, who serves on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, calls reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act an “obligation.” He’s right. Senator Tester also calls domestic violence on Montana’s Indian reservations “an epidemic.” American Indian women suffer domestic abuse at a higher-rate than other women. Statistically, nearly 40 percent of them will suffer from domestic violence in their lifetimes.
The Violence Against Women Act is a powerful tool in changing those painful statistics.
The fight against domestic and sexual violence is not a partisan issue. But sadly, it has become a partisan issue on Capitol Hill. Although the law was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, not a single Republican voted for it — which is a stark contrast to the other reauthorizations that received strong bipartisan support.
We call on all of Montana’s congressional delegation to support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act — specifically Senate Bill 1925 which is being considered by the Senate this week. We thank Montana’s U.S. senators for their strong support of this important law. And we look forward to continuing our work in serving all victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with critical help from the Violence Against Women Act.
Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence