I want to thank the Senator from New Mexico for his great leadership on this issue, it's a national issue, it's a bipartisan issue, it crosses geographic lines and for those of us who have tribal communities, significant tribal communities, we know how important these provisions are to this bill.
We tried very hard on the Judiciary Committee to make sure that this bill has been consistent with the bipartisan work we've done in the past, but we also saw it as an opportunity to consolidate some of the programs to save money and to look at areas where we needed to be more sophisticated, where we needed to respond to changing issues in the law and certainly the tribal jurisdiction issue was one of those major ones.
Mr. President, I rise today to talk about the importance of this bill. It's a law that has changed the way that we think about violence against women in the United States of America. The Violence Against Women Act is one of the great legislative success stories in the criminal area in the last few decades.
Since it was first passed in 1994, annual domestic violence rates have fallen by 50%. Now, you usually cannot say that with criminal prosecution efforts. I usually don't have that kind of number. But that's what we have since 1994, 50% difference in domestic violence rates. People have stopped looking at the issue of domestic violence as a family issue and they've started treating domestic violence and sexual assault as a serious crimes that they are.
Last year Minnesota recorded the lowest number of domestic-related deaths since 1991, down from 34 in 2011 to 18. This is in no small part due to the violence against women act. Women have more access to intervention programs, they feel more empowered to come forward.
I know in my own county where I was chief prosecutor for eight years, thanks to the good work of Paul and Sheila Wellstone and County Attorney Mike Freeman, we set up one of the most unique centers in the country, it's again a model for the rest of the country. Under my leadership, we made changes to advance it other to even higher levels. It's a one-stop shop for the victims of domestic violence so they can see a cop, be able to find a shelter and a place to live, all under one roof instead of walking through the maze of the bureaucracy and the government center.
Both the prevention and prosecution of domestic violence were among my top priorities as a prosecutor and I know we've done good work but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. According to a recent survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in this country. Approximately one in four women have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime and 45% of the women killed in the united states are killed by their partner. Every year, close to 17,000 people still lose their lives to domestic violence.
These statistics mean that sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking are still a problem in America. That is why it is so important that we are moving quickly to take up this bill. Just like the two prior authorizations in 2000 and 2006, this bill strengthens current law and provides solutions to problems that we have learned more about since VAWA first passed in 1994.
The Senate bill continues its tradition of bipartisan sponsorship with 60 cosponsors including seven Republicans, and as we know, last April the senate approved this bill for a 68-31 vote, all 17 women senators supported that bill, I see my colleague, Senator Murkowski here from Alaska, we thank her for her support and vote for that bill. This is truly brought the women of the Senate together to stand up against domestic violence.
What does this bill do that's different from the last bill? It consolidates duplicative programs, streamlines orders, provides greater flexibility for the use of grant money, has training requirements for people providing legal assistance to victims and takes important steps to address disproportionately high rates in Native American communities.
I am disappointed we were unable to include the modest increases of new visas. There were technical provisions so it was removed in order to improve our chances of getting this bill done once and for all. U-visas are an important tool for encouraging victims to come forward and I will press to increase the number available to victims when we work on the comprehensive immigration reform bill in the spring.
One thing I want to know about this bill is that it includes fixes to many gaps in the current system, ways to improve the current system, and there was a bill that I introduced with Senator Hutchinson to address high tech stalking cases where stalkers use the internet, video surveillance and bugging to stalk victims.
This is not something we would have probably been talking about with if I was standing here in 1994 but here in 2013, we know that it is an issue. We've seen cases across the nation of this kind of video surveillance and internet bugging. In fact, we've had a very high profile case involving a high profile sports newscaster who was willing to come forward and work with House and Senate authors on this bill.
We have the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, the officers association, National Sheriffs Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police have endorsed this bill. This provision is included in the Violence Against Women Act, so we're very, very happy about that. Again, I believe that our laws have to be as sophisticated as those that are breaking them. If they're using the internet, if they're spying with video cameras through peepholes, we have to be able to respond to that.
I wanted to end by telling the story I told when we first started to consider this bill over a year ago. Last year, over the holidays, I went to one of the saddest funerals I ever attended for Officer Shawn Schneider. He was a Lake City Police officer in Minneapolis. I've since gotten to know his widow.
He died responding, Mr. President, to a domestic violence case. Went up to the door, he had received a call from the 17-year-old victim, the department had, he went up to that door and he got shot in the head. His bulletproof vest didn't protect him, nothing protected him. I was sitting in that church and saw his three little children including that little girl in her little blue dress covered in stars, I thought to myself, the victims of domestic abuse are not just one victim. It's an entire family, it's an entire community. So in their honor today, the honor of those children, I would like us to have a strong bipartisan support for the Violence Against Women Act. I believe we can do it. Mr. President, I thank you, I yield the floor.