Chairman Nadler Opening Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Washington, DC, March 7, 2019
Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during a Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing on the Violence Against Women Act:
“I thank the Chair for holding this important hearing today, and for her leadership in the effort to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. I also want to thank Ms. Jackson Lee for her longstanding and tireless efforts over the years to protect and strengthen the Act.
“This critical statute, which we often refer to as ‘VAWA,’ was signed into law in 1994 to help ensure that women in America are free from violence and free from fear. At the time VAWA was enacted, it was all too common for violent crimes against women to go without appropriate response and to remain unaddressed by the criminal justice system.
“Although there is still much to do, VAWA represented a historic shift in the federal role in combatting these crimes. Congress began to take seriously its role in ensuring that communities in America have the tools needed to combat the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Since then, victims, survivors and the communities where they live have relied on Congress to help provide the resources needed to prevent and investigate these crimes and to assist survivors.
“And these programs and resources are unfortunately still necessary. Every year, approximately 7.9 million women experience the crimes of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, and an average of three women are killed every day by a current or former intimate partner.
“VAWA, which is not gender-exclusive, addresses the needs of men and women, children, persons with disabilities, homeless persons, and LGBTQ people, among others. The range of individuals VAWA helps is broad and is as diverse as our communities around the country.
“Our engagement, as a Congress, with the issues VAWA addresses has only served to highlight the severity of these problems. VAWA has changed the landscape of how we talk about the issue of violence in the home, in the workplace, and in society-at-large.
“More importantly, VAWA has had, and continues to have, a positive impact on people who rely on its assistance, whether directly or indirectly. Through grants to state and local governments, the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice funds the work of thousands of advocates in preventing and addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and in assisting and training law enforcement and victim advocates.
“Grants administered through the Department of Health and Human Services provide funds for shelters, rape prevention and education, programs to address and reduce the sexual abuse of runaway and homeless youth, and community programs to educate the community on domestic violence. The reach of the work carried out under VAWA is vast and we must continue to support it. The goal of putting an end to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, once and for all, will only be achievable if we, as a Congress, are engaged and committed to it.
“Because of its importance and success, VAWA was reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in 2000, in 2005, and in 2013. Unfortunately, not only did VAWA expire without being reauthorized, but because of the foolish government shutdown, we even had a lapse in appropriations for VAWA earlier this year, which jeopardized funding for domestic violence shelters.
“But our task now is not just to reauthorize VAWA, but to enhance and expand it to make it even more effective.
“I know that there are many people here today—including our witnesses and many of our Members—who have been working tirelessly to support victims and survivors as they seek to live full lives after suffering traumatic experiences. Often, the people who do this type of work are survivors themselves. Thank you for your hard work—and for being here. For them, and for all of our communities, we must reauthorize and reinforce VAWA now.
“It is fitting that we discuss this issue during Women’s History Month, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and working with my colleagues on this important legislation.
“Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.”