Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Washington very much. Deborah Parker, whom she referenced, did a beautiful job yesterday of explaining exactly what it meant to be a Native American woman and a victim of domestic violence.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I can tell you, we have looked hard at all the issues in reauthorizing this bill. We have had a series of hearings and looked at the fact that domestic violence and sexual assault still remain in America, and many of us have worked to build upon the many important improvements the past two VAWA reauthorizations have made in reducing violence.
I would note many things were added--including one of the issues mentioned here today: the U visas--on a bipartisan basis in the 2000 reauthorization. Many of the issues regarding American Indian women were considered in the past. But we are simply building on the past bills. We have worked with our Republican cosponsors to make sure there was a general agreement on any additions that were made to the bill, and they were all made for very good reasons--as we have heard today--to help womenwho need the help.
But despite these improvements we have seen in the numbers, make no mistake about it, violence against women is still a problem. A recent survey by the National Network to End Domestic Violence helps to illustrate both the progress we have made as well as the work that is still left to be done.
On just 1 day last year--look at this as a benchmark; 1 day last year: September 15--in the State of Minnesota, 44 Minnesota domestic violence programs reported serving 735 victims in emergency shelters or transitional housing and 670 adults and children through individual counseling, legal advocacy or children's support groups. That is a total of 1,405 victims in 1 day in one State.
On that same day, there were 807 calls to domestic violence hotlines, which provide emergency support, information, safety planning, and resources for victims in danger. That works out to 33 calls per hour in a 24-hour period, and that is in 1 State of the 50 States.
Because of the Violence Against Women Act, on just 1 day last year, all these victims were able to get access to services they may not have been able to get before VAWA. But one other number from that survey caught my eye. In just 1 day, 315 requests for services were unmet. Mr. President, 83 percent of those unmet requests were for housing.
What is the reason for those unmet requests? The Minnesota organizations reported they did not have enough things such as staff, beds, translators or other specialized services. Think about that: In just 1 day, in 1 State, 315 people were unable to get the help they needed. That means we still have work to do.
As I have worked on the reauthorization of VAWA, I have been reminded of how many of my experiences as Hennepin County attorney--that is Minnesota's largest county--are relevant still today. While I was county attorney, I made it a priority of my office to focus on prevention and prosecution of domestic violence cases.
As a prosecutor, I saw upfront how devastating these cases can be.
One case, a woman in Maple Grove, a suburb of the Twin Cities, told her mother and a friend she planned to end her relationship with her abusive boyfriend. She was finally going to break it off, and if something were to happen to her--she said this; she actually said these words to her mom and to her friend--she said: If something happens to me, “he did it.” That was the last day anyone saw her alive.
A fisherman discovered the woman's body months later in the Minnesota River. It was a tragic end to a story of escalating abuse that this young woman had to live through, as she tried to break it off, to a tragic end.
The woman had earlier filed assault charges against her boyfriend, claiming he had put her in a chokehold and pushed her into a coffee table. Her 3-year-old son told his grandmother he found his mother on the floor and that she was sleeping and he could not wake her.
The boyfriend had actually been convicted years earlier for attempted murder in another case with a pattern of domestic abuse. After he got out, he met his new girlfriend--the one who ended up dead in the Minnesota River. In the end, he pleaded guilty to the murder and received a maximum sentence.
I remember another case with a woman who was shot to death by her boyfriend who then killed himself. The man's 12-year-old daughter tried to get into the bedroom, and when she could not get in, she went to a neighbor's house for help. His 19-year-old son was also in the house. The police were called to that residence at least five times in the 2 years before the tragedy.
These stories are horrifying, and as a prosecutor one never forgets them. For survivors, they stay with them for the rest of their lives. It is stories such as these that make it so obvious that we have more work to do. We need to pass this reauthorization bill and we need to continue to build on the improvements we have made in past reauthorizations. One of the important improvements this reauthorization bill has made comes in the area of stalking. The bill includes a provision I added, along with my cosponsor, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, that will help law enforcement more effectively target high-tech predators because stalking, similar to any of the other crimes recognized in the Violence Against Women Act, is crime that affects victims of every race, age, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status.
The numbers are truly alarming. In just 1 year, 3.4 million people in the United States reported they had been victims of stalking, and 75 percent of those victims reported they had been stalked by someone they knew.
Overall, around 19 million women in the United States have at some point during their lifetime been stalked. The National Center for Victims of Crime estimates that one out of every four stalking victims is stalked through some form of technology.
As the Presiding Officer knows, this is a change. That is why Senator Hutchison and I drafted this amendment that basically says the laws have to be updated because law enforcement has to be as sophisticated as the people who are breaking the laws--as the people who were spying on ESPN reporters, as a recent case showed, through little peepholes in their hotel rooms, while they were undressing. That happened, and that case would have been a lot easier if this bill had been changed and updated with the provisions Senator Hutchison and I are adding. That victim, that reporter, came forward and asked that this be included in the law, and it is. It is another reason why we have to pass the Violence Against Women Act.
The bill also includes a number of improvements, as was noted by Senator Cantwell, with respect to a particularly underserved community-- women living in tribal areas. It is a heartbreaking reality that Native American women experience rates of domestic violence and sexual assault that are much higher than the national average. All the bill does in this area--as the Chair knows, representing a State with a high population of Native Americans--is that it simply allows a tribal court to have jurisdiction concurrent with the other courts, with the Federal and State courts. I know changes have been made in the managers' amendment to address the particular concerns of Alaska. This is an incredibly important part of the bill, and I am glad we were able to work with the Republican cosponsors to get this part of the bill updated.
The Violence Against Women Act is an important tool for ending violence against women, but this is not just about women.
I often mention the case of a very sad situation where a man murdered his wife. They were Russian immigrants. They knew no one in town. He murders his wife, takes her body parts in a bag, dumps them off in a river in Missouri, with his 4-year-old kid in the car the entire time.
When they got back to the Twin Cities, he actually confessed to the crime. When they had the funeral for this woman, there were only five people in that Russian church. There was the family who had come over from Russia--the parents and the sister--and there was myself and our domestic violence advocate. That little girl was there too.
The story the family told me was this: The sister of the victim--the sister of the woman who was killed--was her identical twin. The little girl had never met her aunt because she lived in Russia. When they got off that plane from Russia, the little girl ran up to her aunt--who was the identical twin of her dead mother--she ran up to her and hugged her and said, ``Mommy, mommy, mommy,'' because she thought it was her mother.
It reminds all of us that domestic violence is not just about one victim, it is about a family and it is about a community and it is about a country. That is why we have the opportunity to get this bill done, to put it up for a vote, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act --something we have done time and time again on a bipartisan basis. So let's do it again.
Mr. President, I see we have been joined by the Senator from New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee, who has worked so hard on this bill, Senator Schumer.
I yield the floor.