Sullivan, Heitkamp Applaud Senate Passage of POWER Act
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today applauded Senate passage of S. 717,the Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Act, to help combat domestic abuse and sexual violence. Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Murkowski (R-AK), Capito (R-WV), Cornyn (R-TX) and Daines (R-MT) also were original co-sponsors of the bill.
“Passage of the POWER Act by the Senate is a solid avenue to raising awareness that legal assistance is a critical first step in helping victims of domestic violence become survivors,” said Senator Sullivan. “Pro bono assistance from Alaska’s legal community has been a particularly helpful tool in giving hope to victims of domestic violence. The POWER Act will bring this tool to more communities, encouraging lawyers across the country to get involved and help victims who too often fear or are unfamiliar with the justice system. I call on the House of Representatives to swiftly move to pass this commonsense bill, so we can get the POWER Act onto President Trump’s desk as soon as possible.”
“As former state attorneys general, Senator Sullivan and I understand how a legal advocate – or just awareness of services available – can make a difference in the lives of women and men across the country who live under the shadow of domestic abuse and sexual violence,” said Senator Heitkamp. “By encouraging more partnerships in every state to provide pro bono legal services, we can help offer the education, awareness, and legal tools for victims who would otherwise not be able to afford or seek the resources they need to escape, survive, and rebuild their lives. The U.S. Senate stands united behind victims of abuse by unanimously passing our bill. Our bill tells victims across this country, including those in North Dakota, that there is hope, and it’s another step forward in the long-term fight to end the cycle of domestic violence so we make sure everyone is safe in their homes and communities.”
The POWER Act directs that each year, the United States Attorney in each judicial district across the country hold at least one event, in partnership with domestic violence service providers or volunteer lawyer projects, which promotes pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Each office is also asked to submit a report detailing the occurrence of the event to the Department of Justice which will then compile the nationwide reports into a single report to be submitted to Congress annually.
Providing legal services after the first experience of domestic violence can be a proactive solution to stopping continued domestic violence. Legal representation increases the possibility of successfully obtaining a protective order against an attacker from 32 percent without an attorney to 83 percent with an attorney. Approximately one-in-four women will suffer some form of domestic violence during their lifetime. According to a national survey by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in one day over 12,000 requests for services, including legal representation, by domestic violence survivors were unmet.
Additionally, critically important to both Senators is addressing the high rates of domestic and sexual violence among the Native American and Alaska Native populations in their states. The bill includes a provision requiring many U.S. Attorney’s offices to work with the Native populations in their judicial district in planning and holding an event every few years with a focus on addressing these crimes in Indian Country and among Native populations. Senators Sullivan and Heitkamp, both former attorneys general of their states, understand how the legal system can help break the cycle of abuse.
Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA), alongside Congressman Don Young (R-AK), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced companion legislation in the House in March 2017.