National Network to End Domestic Violence Breakfast

Good morning and thank you to the National Network to End Domestic Violence for putting together today’s event to help bring greater awareness to the issues of domestic and sexual violence. I would like to thank you all for your being here today and for bringing a voice to the countless unheard victims of these horrendous crimes. Many of you have traveled long distances from your homes and your families to share with Representatives and Senators your knowledge and experience working with the victims of these crimes. Through events like this, we can bring greater national awareness to domestic and sexual violence, which in 2000, affected 1.5 million women and nearly 850,000 men throughout the United States.

My home state of Alaska faces some of the harshest domestic violence statistics in America. Recent data shows that from 1999-2004, there were more than 18,000 domestic violence related charges in a state with just over 600,000 people – that is roughly one incident per 33 residents in only five years.  According to information from the Uniform Crime Reports, Alaska has ranked in the top 5 states in the number of rapes per capita each year since 1976 – and Alaska ranks first in the nation for the highest per-capita rate of forcible rape.

Outside of a few major cities, half of Alaska’s population is thinly spread throughout a geographic area nearly 1/5 the size of the Lower 48 – making access to legal, medical and social services very difficult.  And because of cultural differences and jurisdictional limitations, many Alaska Natives are unable to access services available to other communities.  The Violence Against Women Act, which I co-sponsored, was reauthorized last year and has helped to address some of these critical challenges.  Notably, this legislation has provided far reaching guidelines and resources to better assist tribal communities in decreasing the incidents of violent crimes against native women – The strengthened Violence Against Women Act is a true testament to your dedication to one uniting goal -- to end domestic and sexual violence. But it is only the start.

The recent Amnesty International report on sexual abuse and domestic violence in Indian Country reminds us in Washington how limited our ability is to make things safer for victims on the ground.  In Congress we think globally about the resources that first responders and advocates need to protect victims and prosecute offenders. But the resources we provide globally need to empower actions at the local level. 

This Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska I will chair a hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, which will focus on that gap.  We will examine the findings of the Amnesty International report with an eye toward whether further improvements in VAWA or other legislation is warranted.

I would like to thank the National Network to End Domestic Violence for this event. I look forward to our continued work together and I commend you all for your dedication in preventing the spread of domestic and sexual violence in neighborhoods and communities throughout America.