Manchin’s Message from the Hill to the Mountains: Protecting Women and Children from Violence
Last week I joined with my colleagues to pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which will help ensure that the women and children of this country are free from domestic abuse.
I proudly sponsored the Violence Against Women Act because it is unfathomable that any individual could oppose efforts to ensure women and children are free from violence.
Indeed, I have heard from the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence that this law is “the most critical piece of federal legislation affecting the safety of survivors of domestic violence and their children in every county of West Virginia.”
Since it first passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has reduced domestic violence by more than 50 percent through the critical programs it funds. But still, violence against women and children is a terrifying reality in this country.
According to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services – our state’s sexual assault coalition – one in six women in West Virginia will be a victim of attempted or completed rape.
And according to the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on any given day, licensed domestic violence programs in West Virginia provide services to nearly 600 women, children and men. Every seven minutes, a call is made to a domestic violence hotline in West Virginia.
One-third of homicides in West Virginia are related to domestic violence.
In tough economic times – like those we are experiencing now – women are more likely to become victims of domestic violence.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, domestic violence is more than three times as likely to occur when couples are experiencing high levels of financial strain as when they are experiencing low levels of financial strain.
Women whose male partners experienced two or more periods of unemployment over a 5-year study were almost three times as likely to be victims of intimate violence as were women whose partners had stable jobs.
Seventy-three percent of shelters attributed the rise in abuse to “financial issues.” “Stress” and “job loss” were also frequently cited as causing the increase in the victims seeking shelter.
That is why it was so important to pass the Violence Against Women Act, which is a fight
on behalf of the women whose stories are contained in those numbers – but whose lives are invaluable and more important than any statistic could ever hope to portray. The bill we passed reauthorized several essential grant programs that have made a tremendous difference in my state of West Virginia and across this nation.
These are programs like the Sexual Assault Services Program, which has allowed West Virginia to significantly expand services to victims of sexual assault; the Services-Training-Officers-Prosecutors (STOP) Grant Program, which is the primary grant program used to address crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking by allowing states to allocate the funds to providers at their own discretion; Legal Assistance for Victims (LAV), a highly competitive program that seeks to make legal assistance available to victims of violence and sexual assault; and the ARREST Grant Program, which seeks to help state and local governments and agencies investigate and prosecute instances of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and treat them as serious crimes.
Other critical programs funded by VAWA include Rural Enforcement Assistance Grants, which were established to address unique challenges faced in rural jurisdictions, including resources for victims in remote and geographically isolated areas who face barriers to accessing services. The rural grant program has allowed the state to provide fulltime advocacy for sexual assault victims in seven rural counties in West Virginia.
These programs are just a few examples of the services being offered to victims because of the Violence Against Women Act. As we debated this bill, countless West Virginians reached out to me to share women’s stories, emphasize the proven successes of the Violence Against Women Act, and highlight the need to continue funding such an important law.
Truly, it is incomprehensible to me how anyone could make the decision to inflict physical pain on someone else – man, woman or child. Life is tough enough without involving violence.
Ensuring that women and children have adequate protection against violence just makes common sense. And to the people of West Virginia, I know this is a high priority.
If there was ever an issue that should bring us together, I would hope that we could find common ground when it comes to protecting our mothers and grandmothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters and our grandchildren. There is nothing more common sense to me than taking care of the ones we love, and the ones who have cared for us. I know that as Democrats and Republicans, we can agree on that.