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Congressman Tom O´Halleran

Representing the 1st District of Arizona

Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act must take place

October 2, 2018
Contributed Columns

Few things have shaped my life more than the 13 years I served as a police officer.

My very first call as a cop involved domestic violence. I still remember it and other domestic violence and sexual assault cases. While I saw a great deal of violence and worked hard to get justice for all victims, the especially heartbreaking cases were those that involved children.

We must protect children and other survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I continue to work hard now as your congressman to improve the justice system for these types of cases in the district, including in Indian Country, where the law and resources particularly impact the ability to assist survivors.

As a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence and the Bipartisan Working Group to End Domestic Violence, I know there is consensus among like-minded problem-solving lawmakers who want to fulfill our moral obligation to survivors of these heinous crimes and end the cycle of violence that plagues too many communities.

I am joining my colleagues in demanding a full reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is set to expire at the end of the month. I am also leading efforts to enhance VAWA to assist tribal communities and to aid all survivors of such violent acts.

VAWA is a rare hallmark of bipartisanship in Congress over the past two decades. It was first enacted in 1994. Since then, in Arizona and throughout the country, VAWA has helped save countless lives and supported millions of domestic violence and assault survivors by funding critical programs.

Resources — such as rape crisis centers, hotlines, prevention training, tools for law enforcement, legal services and housing — are more available to those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault than ever before. This is at risk, though.

VAWA was last reauthorized in 2013. Without action from Congress, VAWA will expire at the end of September. Congress is expected to vote on a temporary extension, but that is not enough. Without a full reauthorization, survivors lose access to crucial services provided by the legislation.

I am a proud original co-sponsor of a bill to reauthorize and improve VAWA. Unfortunately, time is running out, and like too many things in Washington, partisan games may unnecessarily risk these lifesaving programs we need throughout rural Arizona.

Domestic violence affects every community in America. Tribal communities, though, face it at an alarmingly high rate. According to federal data, at least 55 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. This is unacceptable.

In addition to reauthorizing VAWA, Congress must do more to provide survivors the resources they need to rebuild their lives.

I am leading efforts to do more. I have introduced a number of important bipartisan bills to improve current programs and policies that affect tribal communities.

My bill, the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act, will expand current law regarding special jurisdiction so tribes can prosecute and convict non-Indian offenders who harm children and the law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence cases, as any town outside Indian Country already can.

Within the past three years alone, the Navajo Nation has lost three officers responding to domestic violence calls. We must honor their sacrifice with action.

I also introduced the SURVIVE (Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment) Act, which allocates dedicated funding for victims of crime in tribal communities and the Helping End Abusive Living Situations (HEALS) Act, which aids survivors in search of safe housing as they recover.

In addition, last year the House of Representatives passed my bipartisan amendment to require national youth athletic governing bodies to provide information and resources to sexual assault and abuse survivors, thereby helping children throughout the country.

 
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