Mar 13 2015
Heitkamp Emphasizes Need to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence during Tour of Minot Domestic Violence Crisis Center
Senator’s Visit Continues Her Strong & Safe Communities Day in Minot to Tackle ND’s Top Challenges
MINOT, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today toured the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Inc. in Minot and visited with workers to talk about ways to combat domestic violence and increase services and resources to victims and families of these endemic crimes.
Continuing her Strong & Safe Communities Day in Minot, Heitkamp spoke with staff members about victims’ services and crime intervention at the facility. The Domestic Violence Crisis Center received the 2014 Bush Foundation Prize for Community Innovation, which is awarded annually to honor and support organizations offering innovative solutions to address and make a difference in the lives of community members.
Heitkamp discussed with the group the progress that has been made to stop domestic violence and better support survivors as a result of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – legislation Heitkamp helped implement statewide when she served as North Dakota’s Attorney General, and fought to reauthorize and strengthen as a U.S. Senator. In 2013, Heitkamp worked to include a key provision in VAWA to strengthen existing programs and provide tribal governments the authority and tools necessary to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators who commit these crimes on tribal land.
She also spoke about strategies for developing the law to better serve victims of domestic violence. According to the Justice Department, the annual incidences of domestic violence have fallen more than 60 percent since 1993 – results that are due in large part to VAWA.
“Shining a light on domestic violence means truly defining crimes for what they are, and empowering victims to escape this vicious cycle and protect their families,” said Heitkamp. “Part of the goal of my Strong & Safe Communities Initiative is to work together with strong advocates and leaders, like those who serve at Minot’s Domestic Violence Crisis Center, who innovate and liberate their communities by directly addressing challenges, and moving forward as one. It is imperative that we make sure the Crisis Center, and others like it across the state, have the resources and access to transitional housing available to meet the growing number of victims that they are serving. We must work collectively to address the many challenges our state has faced in the wake of our energy boom by building on sound legislation like the Violence Against Women Act that I helped implement statewide as North Dakota’s Attorney General, and fought to pass in the U.S. Senate. We’ve come a long way in bringing domestic violence out of the shadows, but we can and must to do more to combat these crimes – together, we can keep our communities strong and safe for decades to come.”
Last fall, Heitkamp launched her Strong & Safe Communities Initiative to directly tackle new sets of challenges that have surfaced and proliferated across North Dakota since its energy boom. Her initiative convenes a task force comprised of local leaders and experts from across the state on a variety of issues, including domestic violence. Leading the task force, Heitkamp will work with the group to develop new solutions aimed at keeping North Dakota communities strong and safe for generations to come. Heitkamp today extended these efforts by paving a path forward for her initiative to build on the successes in victims’ advocacy, brought on by VAWA. Together with Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Inc. staff members, Heitkamp worked on steps her initiative can take to improve intervention and crisis victims’ services across the state that work with individuals and families to prosecute these crimes and keep families safe.
Kicking off her Strong & Safe Communities Day earlier today, Heitkamp met with first responders from the Minot area to discuss efforts to improve and support training for them to adequately prepare for incidents with hazardous materials, like the derailment of trains carrying crude oil. Together with the group, Heitkamp discussed her Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act – which she introduced after the derailment in Casselton to improve resources for first responders who are often first on the scene in the case of rail hazmat emergencies. Earlier this month, her RESPONSE Act unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Homeland Security – the final step before reaching the Senate floor.