Statement by Senator Bernie Sanders for National Network to End Domestic Violence Event

I am very happy to see so many people here today focused on addressing the issue of domestic violence. I want to thank all of you for your commitment to solving this very serious problem and I look forward to continuing to work with you.As those of us gathered here today know, domestic violence is an issue that impacts the lives of millions of women across the country, regardless of economic status, age, ethnicity, and religious beliefs. The startling reality is that as many as one in four women will experience some form of domestic violence in her lifetime. This is a dire statistic that we simply must change. The tragedy of domestic violence not only puts the lives of women in danger, it also has serious consequences for children and families. The children that bear witness to this violence are left with emotional and behavioral problems that can remain with them for a lifetime and continue the cycle of violence unless they receive the proper treatment and support. The good news is that, over the last 13 years, we have made tremendous progress in combating domestic violence. Since the initial passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, reports have shown an almost 50% drop in domestic violence as well as a more than 20% decline in the number of women killed by their partners. These remarkable advances are the result of programs established by this legislation to strengthen federal penalties for abusers and provide billions of dollars to states to fund battered women's shelters, establish special training programs for police, prosecutors and nurses, and create a national domestic violence hotline. Further progress was made when we reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act in 2005. Though it was not a perfect solution, this important piece of legislation renewed highly successful programs from the original bill and also expanded the legislation to improve protection for women and families. This includes treating children impacted by domestic violence, ensuring that victims of domestic violence have access to affordable housing, and improving health care access. Unfortunately since the reauthorization of this critical act, funding has remained flat for existing programs and new programs, like those I mentioned, have received zero funding. Rather than providing full funding, President Bush has continued this disturbing trend in his recent budget proposal. This shortfall leaves the health and safety of millions of women and children in jeopardy. What is truly outrageous about this shortsighted approach is that we know that these domestic violence programs not only help to curb the violence and protect the lives of millions of women and families, they also make solid financial sense. According to a report by the Campaign for Funding to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, more than $5.8 billion is spent each year to address the problem of domestic violence, including $4.1 billion for direct health care and mental health care treatment. When the cost of property loss, police, court, and medical costs are considered, the total annual cost skyrockets to $67 billion. This same report estimates that the initial implementation of the Violence Against Women Act saved nearly $14.8 billion dollars in its first six years. These are programs that are good for families and good for our nation.Unfortunately, this is not the only area the President has neglected in his recent budget. At a time when child care costs are rising, the President's budget reduces the number of children receiving child care assistance by 300,000. At a time when more Americans are going hungry, the President's budget terminates food stamps for 280,000 families. Medicare, Medicaid, and education and environmental programs are also slated for significant cuts under the Bush budget. Meanwhile, millionaires would receive an average tax break of $160,000 per year at a cost of $739 billion over the next decade. And, the President's budget includes more money for defense than at the height of the Vietnam and Korean Wars.When it comes to tax breaks for the wealthy or unnecessary Cold-War era weapons systems the sky is the limit for this President, but when called on to reduce childhood poverty, provide universal healthcare, or offer support to victims of domestic violence, the Administration claims we just don't have the money. It is time for the new Democratic majority in Congress to stand with the working families of our country and make sure these important programs receive the money they need.The programs established by the Violence Against Women Act provide a lifeline to millions of women and children throughout this country and we must make sure that they are fully funded. I look forward to working with you during the upcoming Budget process to make sure that happens in this Congress.