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NTF's Response To Heritage Action On VAWA

NTF's Response To Heritage Action On VAWA

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Heritage Action is Wrong About Its VAWA Claims 1 of 4
HERITAGE ACTION IS WRONG ABOUT ITS VAWA CLAIMS 
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protects adults and children, keeps families and communities safe and is thecornerstone of our nation’s response to the serious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.Forty-seven state Attorneys General, along with thousands of law enforcement, community services, faith-based and healthcare organizations from across the country have urged Congress to vote
Yes
on VAWA.
1
 However, on February 4, 2013, Heritage Action urged a “NO” vote on VAWA reauthorization bill before the Senate (S.47) andindicated that it would count it as a key vote on their scorecard.
In its call for a vote
against 
VAWA reauthorization, HeritageAction distorts the record and misrepresents the truth. The following claims are particularly egregious and demand aresponse.
HERITAGE CLAIM:
There is no evidence of VAWA’s effectiveness.
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
VAWA has led to significant improvements in the criminal and civil justice systems, encouraging victims to filecomplaints, improving evidence collection, and increasing access to protection orders.
2
 
 
One study finds that VAWA has “significantly strengthened victims’ involvement with criminal justice authorities such asprosecutors and court officers”
3
while other researchers have founds that the “STOP program has been critical to lawenforcement and prosecution training, and the development of specialized units.”
4
 
 
By reducing crimes and the subsequent costs to the criminal justice and health care systems, VAWA has realizedcritical cost savings.
o
 
VAWA has contributed to a significant reduction in domestic violence. Between 1994 (when VAWA was firstenacted) and 2010, the rate decreased by 64 percent.
5
 
o
 
Similar gains have been documented in the areas of sexual assault, with the percentage of victims of rape andsexual assault who said they reported the assault to the police increasing from 28.8% in 1993 to 50% in 2010.
6
 
o
 
 A 2002 study found that VAWA saved an estimated $14.8 billion in net averted social costs in its first five yearsalone.
7
A recent study showed that the state of Kentucky averted $85 million in costs by reducing violence andimproving victims’ quality of life through protection orders.
8
 
o
 
Even small investments in VAWA have been shown to make a difference in the nation’s response to rape andassault.
9
 
HERITAGE CLAIM:
“Simply expanding the VAWA framework with extensive new provisions and programs that have beeninadequately assessed is sure to facilitate waste, fraud, and abuse and will not better protect women or victims or violencegenerally.” 
 
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
 
The Senate VAWA Reauthorization bill (S.47) consolidates 13 existing programs into 4 to reduce administrative costsand avoid duplication, and reduces authorizations by 17% from the 2005 reauthorization levels in order to make VAWAthe strongest, leanest, most cost-effective means of addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, andstalking.
 
Claims of waste, fraud and abuse are unfounded and spurious.
 
Heritage Action is Wrong About Its VAWA Claims 2 of 4
o
 
In separate letters to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House JudiciaryCommittee member, U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), the Department of Justice reported that “VAWA grantsare being used effectively for their intended purpose,” that “grant management and grantee recordkeeping aregenerally sound,” and that when auditing problems arise, they are “not about waste, fraud, or abuse, but rather about inadequate accounting and insufficient documentation and are quickly resolved.”
10
 
o
 
 A recent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit indicated that failures to comply with grant requirements aremuch more likely due to staff and budgetary constraints faced by grant recipients than due to intentional or knowing fraud or grant mismanagement. This same OIG audit found that, even in light of minor violations, therewas “no indication that the goals and objective of the grants awarded to [the grantee] will not be achieved.”
11
 
HERITAGE CLAIM:
“The bill would reauthorize and expand the 1994 law that made domestic violence - typically handled by state and local governments - a federal crime.” 
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
State and local governments handle the vast majority of domestic violence cases. However, there are some crimesthat occur on federal lands, during interstate travel, and in Indian country. Before VAWA 1994, there was no way torespond to these crimes because state courts and law enforcement had no jurisdiction to respond. VAWA 1994created the federal and interstate crimes of domestic violence to provide a response in these situations.
 
For example, the first federal domestic violence crime that was prosecuted under VAWA was one in which a WestVirginia man beat his wife and put her in the trunk of his car. He then drove for hours between West Virginia andKentucky. Deprived of oxygen, his wife went into a vegetative state from which she never emerged. Because this crimeoccurred as he drove through 2 states, neither state could take jurisdiction. The crime was prosecuted under VAWA’sinterstate crime of domestic violence.
12
 
HERITAGE CLAIM:
“The Senate’s ‘reauthorization’ of VAWA would broaden the definition of domestic violence to includecausing ‘emotional distress.’ This expansive and vague language will increase fraud and false allegations, for which there is nolegal recourse.” 
Ø
 
THE FACTS 
 
This is a complete fabrication. There is no such change to the definition of “domestic violence” proposed in S.47. Thecurrent definition of domestic violence is limited “to felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence”.
HERITAGE CLAIM:
“Using federal agencies to fund the routine operations of domestic violence programs that state and local governments could provide is a misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that truly are the province of thefederal government….[This provision of services is] more properly handled at the state and local level.” 
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
VAWA has transformed our nation's response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking bybringing critically needed resources to States and local communities to address these crimes.
 
VAWA’s comprehensive approach to interpersonal violence combines funding, training and technical assistance tohelp States and local communities more effectively identify and prosecute offenders and provide more responsiveservices for victims.
 
Congress authorized VAWA grants to states based on population formulas, as well as other competitive grants for which law enforcement and other justice agencies can directly apply. This flexibility enables states to formulate their own responses to violence while also supporting the nationwide development and dissemination of evidence-basedbest practices in the criminal justice and civil legal systems.
 
 
The single largest grant program authorized under VAWA, accounting for nearly half of VAWA appropriations, is ablock grant to States, providing resources to and facilitating coordination among law enforcement, prosecution, courtsand victims services.
 
Heritage Action is Wrong About Its VAWA Claims 3 of 4
HERITAGE CLAIM: “ 
These ideas all sound good, yet they have no authorization in the Constitution. They’re more properly handled at the state and local level.” 
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
In
South Dakota v. Cole
, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U.S. Congress had the authorityto influence the individual States in areas of authority usually reserved to the states under the U.S. Constitution; theVAWA grant funding conditions meet this test, as States are free to refuse the funding if they do not wish to complywith the conditions.
HERITAGE CLAIM:
“The bill would allow non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence on tribal lands to be tried inthose tribal courts, thereby eliminating the right of the accused to face a jury of their peers.” 
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
S.47, Section 904 does not take away constitutional rights from offenders, it guarantees swift justice for Native victims.Over 50 U.S. law professors carefully reviewed the provisions of section 904 and found them to be constitutional.
13
 
 
There are safeguards built into the Sec. 904 that ensure that all rights guaranteed under the Constitution are given tonon-Native defendants in tribal court, including the right to trial by an impartial jury.
 
Further, the special domestic violence jurisdiction only applies to instances of domestic or dating violence, or toviolations of protection orders where: 1) the victim is an Indian, 2) the conduct occurs on tribal lands; and 3) thedefendant has established significant ties to the Tribe (e.g., the defendant lives or works on the reservation).
 
The carefully crafted and constitutionally sound tribal provisions included in Sec. 904 of S.47 respond to a problem of crisis proportions:
o
 
Native women are victimized at rates higher than any other population in the United States. It is estimated that34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes and 39% will be subjected todomestic violence in their lifetimes.
o
 
67% of Native women victims of rape and sexual assault report their assailants as non-Native individuals, and, onsome reservations, Native women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.
HERITAGE CLAIM:
“Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights to due process, presumption of innocence,equal treatment under the law, the right to a fair trial and to confront one
¹ 
s accusers, the right to bear arms, and all custody/visitation rights.” 
 
Ø
 
THE FACTS
 
The language of VAWA makes it abundantly clear that constitutional protections cannot be abridged in the process of responding to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Specifically, in 18 U.S.C. 2265, VAWArequires that “reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard is given to the person against whom the [civil protection]order is sought sufficient to protect that person’s right to due process” as a prerequisite to those orders being accordedConstitutional full faith and credit.
 
Nowhere does VAWA make any pronouncements whatsoever on the confrontation clause, the presumption of innocence, or the standard of evidence to be used in civil or criminal proceedings; this, as always, is left to the states.In every state in the nation, there must be at least a preponderance of evidence to suggest that one partner hasabused the other before a court will issue a civil protection order,
14
and every state in the nation requires evidence tobe established beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal proceedings.
 
VAWA does not create any requirements on how states or local courts handle divorce and custody cases within their  jurisdictions. The law in every state requires courts to award custody based on the best interests of the child.
 

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