Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) says he welcomes Senate passage last week of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The bill doubles funding allocated to the Northern Mariana Islands for the Sexual Assault Service Program and contains several other provisions of specific benefit to women in the Northern Mariana Islands. The Senate passed the VAWA reauthorization in the last Congress also, but the Republican House refused to take action on the bill.
Overall, the VAWA reauthorization significantly strengthens the ability of federal and local law enforcement and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The Senate passed its bill, S. 47, on Tuesday with a bipartisan vote of 78 to 22.
Sablan is an original co-sponsor of the same bill, H.R. 11, in the House.
“Increasing the funding for service providers in the Northern Marianas who help survivors of sexual assault has been my goal for some time,” the congressman explained. “In the last Congress I introduced H.R. 4195 for that one purpose; and I worked to have the funding increase included in the larger bills, H.R. 11 and S. 47, in this Congress.”
In addition to the increased allocation for the Sexual Assault Service Program, the Senate bill and its House companion reauthorize STOP and Transitional Housing Assistance grants that the Northern Mariana Islands also receives.
“Providing these services is truly a pressing need,” said Sablan. “The national statistics are horrifying: one in six women will experience an attempted or completed rape at some time in her life; and most of those women will be younger than age 18.
“As many in six in 10 victims are assaulted by a partner, relative, friend, or acquaintance, which makes it even more important to provide safe havens in our community.”
Sablan has been working on these issues since he was first elected to Congress with the help of local advocates, such as the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “The Coalition and executive director Maisie B. Tenorio have been great partners, letting me know what is needed to help individuals and families caught up in domestic and sexual violence.
“I think we can all be proud of the strides our community has made in confronting this problem-though we all know there is much, much more work still to do.
“Improving the flow of federal funding will remain part of our effort,” Sablan promised.
The VAWA reauthorization passed by the Senate also makes a technical amendment to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, which extended federal management of immigration to the Northern Marianas. Women who petition for status as victims of human trafficking or violence will be allowed to count the time lived in the Northern Marianas prior to the CNRA going into effect as time present in the United States. This will allow these women to more quickly adjust to a permanent immigrant status. (PR)