(Senate - February 14, 2013)

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[Page S765]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I rise today in support of S.47, the 
Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This legislation provides 
much needed funding and support for law enforcement in our fight 
against domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and 
  This bill has enjoyed wide bipartisan support over the years. Crimes 
against women and children will not be tolerated. Tuesday, the Senate 
once again approved VAWA with a 78-22 overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. I 
was proud to cosponsor the Violence Against Women Act and I urge my 
colleagues in the House to stand with America's women and children and 
quickly pass this critical legislation.
  We have an obligation to do our part and protect women and children 
on the streets and in their homes. And this legislation provides the 
resources needed to further this very important effort. Reauthorizing 
this funding is particularly important for my home State of Louisiana, 
which unfortunately ranks among the top five States in incidences of 
domestic violence homicides in the Nation.
  Last year, Louisiana received $4.9 million in Violence Against Women 
Act grants. These dollars helped fund critical programs through 
organizations like Wellspring Alliance for Family, which provides 
domestic violence and sexual assault services in Monroe, LA, and the 
Crescent House program in New Orleans. And these funds don't just 
supplement established programs. In fact, the vast majority wouldn't be 
possible in the first place without VAWA grants because many service 
providers count on more than 90 percent of their funding from the 
Federal Government.
  Last year, Louisiana's 18 shelters provided more than 90,000 shelter 
nights, answered more than 38,000 crisis calls and despite serving 
17,000 clients, the shelters had to turn away almost 2,000 people for 
lack of resources. In one national survey, 60 percent of the shelters 
in Louisiana reported that they lacked funding and 25 percent reported 
that they lacked shelter beds or housing for victims of domestic 
violence and their children.
  These statistics are troubling. And I think they are an important 
part of why VAWA is so critical to women and children in communities 
across Louisiana and throughout our country. But numbers don't tell the 
whole story. You have to talk to the people on the ground, to the 
people who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping women and 
children in need, to truly appreciate the impact of this legislation.
  For example, Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana 
Coalition Against Domestic Violence, visited a program in New Orleans. 
While visiting that program, Beth spoke with a young mother with her 
baby, only to discover that the baby was 6 days old. The young mother 
had been at the program for a few weeks and had been terribly abused 
when she was nearly 9 months pregnant. She and her baby survived but 
her child was born in shelter care. What would have been the outcome if 
a shelter had not been available?
  The program that Beth visited, like every domestic violence program 
in Louisiana, was heavily supported by Violence Against Women Act 
dollars. Additionally, law enforcement officers, advocates, and 
prosecutors are all supported by funds available under the act. 
Louisiana's current budget challenges have serious implications for 
these vital services. In December 2012, Louisiana cut $1 million from 
the budget for these programs, jeopardizing their very existence.
  Louisiana is not alone. Programs all over the Nation have experienced 
reductions in grants and losses in donations during the recent economic 
downturn. That is why we must reauthorize the Violence Against Women 
Act. We have made significant progress in the last 20 years. We must 
continue to provide support to State and local government and the 
nonprofit entities that provide critical services.
  I congratulate the people who are committed to providing important 
services to those who need them most. We owe a great deal of gratitude 
to leaders like Beth Meeks of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic 
Violence, leaders like Mary Claire Landry of the Family Justice Center 
in New Orleans, and like Valerie Bowman of the Family Justice Center in 
Monroe, and leaders in the law enforcement community like Tommy Clark, 
chair of the Louisiana Chiefs of Police Association Domestic Violence 
  I am proud that the Senate has taken action on this important piece 
of legislation and I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives 
to do the same.