The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994 to help victims of domestic and sexual violence seek support and justice. The Act expired over 500 days ago in 2011. Last year, both the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate passed new bills but were unable to arrive at a compromise.
In a statement submitted for the record, Congressman Faleomavaega offered his support for final passage of the Senate version of the bill, S.47.
“This bill passed in the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 78-22,” Congressman Faleomavaega stated. “Altogether, 23 Republican senators voted for this bill, including every Republican woman senator. Mr. Speaker, this bill, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican, is not only bipartisan, but it is also a comprehensive and inclusive solution to the domestic and sexual violence plaguing American society.”
In reference to the House’s consideration of a Republican substitute to the bill, Faleomavaega expressed his concerns regarding the GOP version, specifically for its treatment of Native American women and tribal authority to prosecute non-Indian offenders on tribal land.
“While I fully support reauthorization of this law which, since 1994, has been an essential tool to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence, I do, however, have major concerns with the GOP substitute to this bill. Unlike S. 47, the substitute offers a lesser form of protection for Indian women abused on tribal land. The House version requires that Native American tribes seek certification from the U.S. Department of Justice before they are able to prosecute non-Indian offenders on tribal land. Mr. Speaker, this doesn’t make any sense. A sovereign tribe should not have to willingly hand over part of their sovereignty to prosecute these offenders. Ultimately, the House version falls short of protecting Native American women,” Faleomavaega added.
In his statement, Congressman Faleomavaega also called attention to the growing prevalence of domestic and sexual crimes in the U.S. and how S.47 would offer more support to victims, including those in American Samoa. Unlike the House version, S.47 also expanded protections for immigrants, victims from the LGBT community, and trafficking victims.
“Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, domestic and sexual crimes have been on the rise in the U.S., including my district of American Samoa. And like many cases in the States, almost always, the perpetrator is a family member or close neighbor. Furthermore, these crimes often go unreported due to fear of authorities or shame. It is the fear to come forward that allows abusers to continue their abuse. But when laws are in place to offer full support and protection for victims, we can ensure that more and more of these victims will come forth and their abusers are brought to justice.”
Faleomavaega concluded his statement by praising the Senate bill for protecting all Americans from domestic and sexual abuse.
“Today the House has the opportunity to pass this bill to protect all people, whether they are from the inner city or a tribal reservation, whether they are immigrants who would otherwise be afraid to come forward, or whether they are part of the LGBT community…I urge my colleagues to vote no on the House amendment and to pass S. 47, a bill to protect all people, because that, Mr. Speaker, is what America is all about.”
In a separate statement after the passage of S. 47, Congressman Faleomavaega also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice for their administration of VAWA in American Samoa and local leaders in the Territory for their work on behalf of victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“I thank Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice for making available VAWA funds to assist local governments in promoting safety and justice and for providing crucial services to victims of abuse, especially in American Samoa,” the Congressman stated.
“I would also like to commend members of the community and local leaders in American Samoa who have worked tirelessly to protect victims of abuse, offer support, and bring offenders to justice. I deeply appreciate the work of several individuals including American Samoa’s chief prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop, Ipu Avegalio Lefiti, and Faaalu Faletoese Iuli, for their leadership on this issue. I also acknowledge our local governmental offices as well as the Multi-Disciplinary Response Team (MDRT) Against Family Violence, the American Samoa Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (ASCADSV), and the Alliance for Strengthening Families, just to name a few, for their advocacy on behalf of victims of abuse,” Faleomavaega concluded.