Murray fights to protect all women in domestic violence act
EVERETT - Seeking faces and stories to give her firepower in defending additions to the Violence Against Women Act in Congress, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray visited Everett’s Dawson Place children’s abuse center last week.
The Violence Against Women Act, which expired last year, is up for reauthorization but faces gridlock in Congress because House Republicans balk at adding protections for illegal immigrants, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and American Indian women. The Senate version expands VAWA’s reach for 30 million more people.
Murray, a democrat, is a key senator in support of these protections.
“In this country, we should help any victim of domestic violence no matter who they are or who they love,” Murray said. “I have said I will not pass this bill without” these groups included.
In a roundtable discussion, Murray heard from domestic violence victims from those three groups.
The discussion included Sonia, whose boyfriend beat her to submission and threatened she’d be deported if she reported it. She was put in a monthlong coma from one severe beating and has a disfigured face.
Sonia, from the Yakima area, spoke though a Spanish interpreter.
Sonia showed pictures of her injuries.
“Oh my gosh,” Murray responded.
Many abusers in the undocumented community eventually get sent back to their home countries, which means their victims are afraid of being sent back to the same place, Maria Verdin, from the Yakima-area center Amigas Unidas said.
If the victim is deported, the case is closed in the United States, Verdin said.
Iliana, another victim, is working on becoming a legal immigrant. She was beaten so badly she was “about to lose my life,” Iliana said. Iliana lost her fetus in the beatings.
Deborah Parker, vice president of the Tulalip Tribes board of directors, supports Murray and spoke out at a Washington, D.C. press conference on her own experience with childhood abuse. Parker was at the roundtable discussion last week.
There are high rates of domestic violence on American Indian reservations.
VAWA is needed “to maintain a healthy community for our women, children and men,” Parker said. “Often we don’t mention the men, but they are violated.”
In Snohomish County, there are statistical snapshots of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County is one of many domestic violence providers in the county. DVS received 5,791 calls on its crisis hot line between July 1, 2010 and the end of June 2011, the latest figures available.
Dawson Place, the county’s children’s abuse center, served 1,139 child abuse victims between July 1, 2011 and the end of June 2012, according to Dawson Place figures.
“VAWA is not only important to adult victims, but very important to the children of the domestic violence adult victims,” Dawson Place director Mary Wahl said.
In Congress, the Senate and House have competing versions of the act, which streamlines federal aid for fighting domestic violence to the courts and law enforcement. The Senate’s version adds to the act provisions to give visas to undocumented victims, specifies victims in the gay community as domestic violence victims and grants more authority for American Indian victims to go after non-Indian races. VAWA has support of police officials for the tools it provides them in fighting domestic violence.
“This is not 1955, this is 2012,” Sheriff John Lovick said on not expanding legislation to minority groups. Lovick experienced domestic violence growing up, telling the audience that his stepfather beat his mother. “It’s sad you have to fight for these things,” Lovick told Murray.
“I can’t believe in 2012 we’re going to exclude people,” Murray said. “I’m going to be firm on this.”