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Begich Supports Bill to Fight Domestic Violence

After successfully working to provide a fix to legislation that will preserve the authority of Alaska tribes to issue civil protective orders in domestic violence cases, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today voted in favor of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The legislation, which provides funding for communities and law enforcement to fight domestic violence and other forms of abuse, passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 31.

During final negotiations on the bill this week, Sen. Begich insisted that Alaska tribes not lose any of their current authority to issue civil protective orders in domestic violence cases.  While the VAWA bill expands tribal authority over criminal domestic violence cases in the Lower 48, that is not the case in Alaska.  The Alaska exemption was apparently inadvertently applied to existing civil authority in Alaska.

An amendment introduced  by Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski restored the authority of Alaska tribes to issue civil protective orders.  It was included in today’s final passage of VAWA.

“Retreating on the status quo was out of the question, especially given the heartbreaking statistics of violence and abuse in rural Alaska,” Sen. Begich said.

The Violence Against Women Act was originally enacted in 1994 in response to the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual violence and the impacts on women. The Act encourages law enforcement, judicial personnel, and public and private service providers to work together to address domestic violence. A number of organizations in Alaska have received grant money through the legislation as can be seen here http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/grantactivities.htm

“Funding goes to all corners of our state and is key to helping us fight this epidemic,” Begich said. “But intervention and treatment are not enough. Domestic and sexual violence is a public health epidemic, so what we really need is prevention. This reauthorization effort is just that—a step in the right direction to eventually put a stop to this crisis,” Begich added.

Additionally, Sen. Begich has proposed legislation to give Alaska tribes more resources and authority to handle alcohol and drug cases in their own communities. The Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act   would set up a demonstration project in nine villages, hire more law enforcement officers and allow tribes and the State of Alaska to explore new jurisdictional agreements. 

Sen. Begich delivered a speech yesterday in support of VAWA.

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