WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence, spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about her ongoing efforts to prioritize and provide resources and support for survivors across the country—for women and children in our most rural and urban areas. Following months of good faith, bipartisan negotiations, Senate Democrats walked away from the table to introduce a partisan bill chalk-full of political talking points.
She spoke about why the Violence Against Women Act is important to her:
Ernst went on to outline the proposal she plans to introduce, one that’s focused on survivors, not politics. She urged her colleagues, Democrat and Republican, to join her in this effort to reauthorize and modernize the Violence Against Women Act.
Read her full remarks below:
The Violence Against Women Act turned 25 years old this year.
And as many of us are aware, this law provides desperately needed resources to tackle domestic and sexual abuse in our communities.
And folks, it needs to be reauthorized.
I wasn’t in the Senate the last time we authorized the bill in 2013, and I wanted to be part of the process of getting the bill done this time around.
As a woman, as a survivor, and as someone who volunteered at a women’s shelter in college – I understand just how awful violence against women can be – in terms of physical and mental wellbeing… in terms of self-image…in terms of our families, and in terms of the security of the whole of society.
For months, the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and I worked to develop a bipartisan proposal, that I really thought we could get across the finish line.
Because, folks, as that old School House Rock video would say, without passing the House, the Senate, and getting a signature from the President, all you have is a bill, just a bill, not a law. And no survivors are helped by a bill.
But here we are today…after months of work and mountains of effort that went into working toward a bipartisan bill, at some point someone pressed the big red button of partisan politics, and the Democrats refused to work together any longer…walking away from the real progress that we had made.
Not only did Senate Democrats walk away from the negotiating table, but they did so by dropping a bill that is going nowhere.
The Senate Democrats’ bill is a non-starter. It won’t pass the Senate. It won’t get the President’s signature. And, most importantly, it won’t actually help the survivors that need it.
These politics are sad. We should be helping survivors. Not engaging in the kind of partisan antics that will never produce real results.
We have seen this before.
The Democrats will say that Republican women can’t speak for women because we don’t agree point by point with their leftist agenda. And these are worn out antics, my friends.
However, despite the Minority’s decision to walk away and put politics ahead of survivors, I’m leading our effort to continue getting a bill done that focuses on providing the resources and support survivors across the country need…for women and children in our urban and rural areas like mine.
My goal has always been to empower survivors, punish abusers, and enhance the overall purpose behind this very important law.
That’s why this week I plan to put forward a bill that puts survivors first.
We have included a number of issues Senate Democrats fail to address. For example, and this should be so simple folks, we’re holistically addressing female genital mutilation.
We tripled the amount of funding that is available for education and sexual assault prevention.
We also focus more on enhancing the penalties for abusers.
And as a matter of fact, one of the most objectionable and unacceptable items in the Senate Democrat bill is that they allow accused abusers to go outside of the justice system and “negotiate” directly with their victim…with their victim…those women, those abused survivors that have already been manipulated and beat down. It allows those abusers to negotiate directly with their victims.
That is, of course, as long as the victim consents…as if abusive relationships ever involve consent. Outside of the justice system, folks.
Folks, it’s unimaginable that we would allow or fund such an abusive system or abusive situation and allow abusers to escape justice.
I think abusers should face justice, I’m just not sure why our Senate Democrat colleagues don’t agree…
Mr. President, coming from a rural area of our country, I made sure we prioritized rural resources in our bill.
We’re offering increased funding for housing assistance so that women and children can be safe from their abusers.
When you live in an area like mine, rural Montgomery County…Red Oak, Iowa, the nearest shelter is in Council Bluffs… an hour away.
You have virtually cut off a women and her children from any job that she might have had…any family that she might have had…it really truly takes them out of their life.
By offering these housing resources, through voucher programs, our bill enables them to rent an apartment or home in their home community.
Imagine what we could do in this body if we worked with a single purpose instead of a dozen different motives. This entire body pulling together with a single purpose. Focused on assisting those survivors.
I welcome the support of all my colleagues for my bill—Democrats and Republicans—and I hope we can all join together in this effort.
How many more violent abusers could we put behind bars, to keep survivors safe?
How many more people would be alive today?
I want to thank my colleagues for joining me today to speak on the importance of the Violence Against Women Act.
And I want to send the message to the countless survivors across this country: we are with you, we hear you, and we are working for you.
The House version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that Senate Democrats want to adopt contain several poison pills that guarantee it would not pass in a Republican-controlled Senate.
Ernst’s bill provides a ten percent increase in funding above what the Senate Democrats proposed last week, triples the support for rape prevention and education from current levels, and includes a number of bipartisan measures to address VAWA-related crimes throughout the country, including in rural areas like her home state of Iowa. It, unlike the Democrat bill, focuses on survivors and prevention.
U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., David Perdue, R-Ga., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, are co-sponsors of the bill.
Ernst’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 goes even further than the Democrats’ proposal in certain areas and tackles issues their bill fails to. The Ernst-led bill:
- Robustly increases the amount of resources to victims
- Holistically addresses female genital mutilation
- Bolsters housing protections available to victims
- Enhances criminal penalties for child sexual abuse
- Empowers victims of revenge pornography
- Closes the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole
- Recognizes sex trafficking as a form of sexual assault
Included in the legislation is Senator Ernst’s CREEPS Act, which gives federal agencies the authority to remove an employee convicted of sexual assault or found to have committed such an offense by an administrative body while employed by the federal government.