Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today urged his colleagues to strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. The House of Representatives today voted on a Republican bill to extend the Act, which was opposed by women’s advocacy groups, religious leaders, civic organizations and the White House because it weakens certain protections of current law and fails to extend protections to LGBT and tribal populations. Larsen, who voted against the bill, spoke on the House floor urging his colleagues to strengthen the bill.
“The Violence Against Women Act has saved thousands of women’s lives and has made sure that domestic abusers meet justice,” Larsen said. “We have an opportunity to strengthen that law now, extending protections to vulnerable tribal, LGBT, and other marginalized communities. We must strengthen protections for victims, not strengthen abusers’ hands. Unlike the bipartisan Senate version, the bill the House considered today fails to make the improvements we need.
“It is a shame that something as important as protecting victims of domestic violence has fallen into a partisan dispute. Passage of the Violence Against Women Act has always been bipartisan. We must set aside this partisan bill and move forward together to strengthen the Violence Against Women Act in a bipartisan manner.”
In his floor statement, Larsen spoke about the importance of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act provisions of the bill which he and Sen. Maria Cantwell successfully included in the 2006 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Larsen’s floor statement follows:
Rep. Rick Larsen Floor Statement on the Violence Against Women Act
In 2006, I along with Senator Cantwell made sure that the “International Marriage Broker Regulation Act” (IMBRA) was enacted as part of the last reauthorization of VAWA. IMBRA put regulations in place to protect foreign women brought here through the “mail order bride” industry, to keep them from falling prey to serial abusers. This law also made changes to the visa system to protect all immigrating fiancées and spouses from potential abusers, making sure they had critical information about whether their American visa sponsor had a violent history, and knew how to get help if they were abused.
Pushing this legislation forward six years ago was important to me because a young woman named Anastasia King was found dead in my District. She had been strangled to death and buried in a shallow grave in 2000. Her husband had a domestic violence protection order issued against him from a previous wife. Indle King killed Anastasia because he wanted to get a new bride and didn’t want to pay for a divorce.
The VAWA bill being considered in the House does not go far enough to strengthen the IMBRA protections that we established in 2006. It leaves out important amendments to IMBRA that passed in the bipartisan Senate bill, like putting penalties in place to keep a man like Indle King from simply lying about his violent history so as to lure yet another woman here to be abused and then discarded.
The VAWA bill being considered in the House also undermines other protections in current law for abuse victims. We must use this reauthorization process to strengthen protections against abusers, not strengthen abusers’ upper hand. We must use this reauthorization process to reaffirm that VAWA’s protections are for all victims, including tribal women and LGBT individuals.
So as we move ahead, I urge my colleagues not to let us fall back. We need to do more to protect victims, and we certainly cannot roll back protections in current law— that is unacceptable. We must speak for all of the silent voices of abuse. On their behalf, I urge you to oppose HR 4970.