WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Prince George’s Sheriff Melvin High, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw, along with representatives of the Family Crisis Center, Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center and the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, House of Ruth, and other members of the Prince George’s community who are involved with support for victims of domestic violence were united today in their call for swift action by the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version of legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The call for action followed a roundtable discussion led by Senator Cardin, hosted by Sheriff High, about the benefits of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the progress and challenges to ending domestic violence in Prince George’s County, the State of Maryland and the Nation.
“The Violence Against Women Act has a proven track record of protecting women from domestic violence and it is hard to understand opposition to legislation with the goal of curbing domestic violence. Saving women’s lives should not be a partisan issue,” said Senator Cardin. “The statistics of domestic violence are alarming, yet, domestic violence remains one the most under-reported crimes in the country. These victims need to know that they have our support, including access to justice, help with housing, medical care, and economic opportunity.”
“The oath that I took obligates me to protect all people, without political consideration. The Violence Against Women Act should be reauthorized with only this concept of law enforcement in mind and with the commitment of our country to the protection of women and girls,” added Sheriff High.
“For more than a decade, my office has received funding from the Violence Against Women Act and that has allowed our domestic violence unit to provide greater services to victims of abuse,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Alsobrooks said. “Without this funding, we would lose a domestic violence advocate and a prosecutor who is assigned specifically to domestic violence cases, reducing our ability to help victims. I strongly urge the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version of VAWA to ensure that we continue to receive this critical funding.”
“As the premiere domestic violence program in Prince George’s County, serving women and children for more than thirty years, we believe that if H. R. 4970, as crafted by the House of Representatives, is passed, it would not only set women back 50 years, but would be a travesty for women and children of this nation now and for years to come,” Malinda Miles, Executive Director of the Family Crisis Center, Inc. of Prince George’s County said.
“Combating domestic violence remains a primary focus of the Prince George’s County Police Department. Our collaborative partnerships with all involved stakeholders will ensure this important public safety issue gets the attention it deserves. We’re thankful to Senator Cardin for his enthusiastic and steadfast support,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw.
The Senate passed its version of the VAWA reauthorization issue in April. 15 Republicans joined with the Democratic majority and passed this bill with an overwhelming vote of 68-31. The bill was improved since its first passage 18 years ago. The Senate-passed version of the law includes measures to ensure that victims are not denied services because they are gay or transgender. It protects Native Americans women from domestic violence and sexual assault, and includes non-discrimination protection for all victims, regardless of their race, color, religion, or gender. The VAWA encourages collaboration among law enforcement, judicial personnel, and public and private service providers to victims of domestic and sexual violence. It also works to increase public awareness.
One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. In Maryland, in 2009, there were more than 18,500 reported cases of domestic abuse and 38 fatalities. That period of time has been the lowest number of domestic violence-related deaths on record for the state, but these numbers are still unacceptable.