Aug 09 2018
Heitkamp Tours Mary’s Place, Holds Discussion on Combating Domestic Violence in Jamestown to Keep Communities Strong & Safe
In a One-Day Domestic Violence Survey in 2016 in ND, 309 Victims Sought Housing Refuge, and 188 Adults and Children Received Help through Counseling, Legal Services or Children’s Support Groups – which Mary’s Place will Help Provide
Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act was One of the First Bills Heitkamp Cosponsored & Helped Pass as a U.S. Senator; Implemented Initial Law as ND’s Attorney General
JAMESTOWN, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today toured Mary’s Place, a new facility to provide emergency shelter, resources, and transitional services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Jamestown area. Following the tour, Heitkamp convened Mary’s Place staff, local law enforcement, health care professionals, and Jamestown leaders to discuss the needs of the community as it works to address
Like many other communities in North Dakota, Jamestown’s affordable housing opportunities have decreased— which exacerbates the difficulty in finding safe transitional or permanent housing for victims of domestic or sexual violence. After opening in June 2018, Mary’s Place now provides additional safe housing opportunities for victims in Stutsman and Foster counties.
Heitkamp talked about how critical it is to combat domestic violence at both the local and federal levels. She also 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. Reauthorizing VAWA was one of the first bills she cosponsored and helped pass as a U.S. senator in 2013. She 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. Largely due to VAWA, according to the Justice Department, the annual incidences of domestic violence have fallen more than 60 percent since 1993.
“Since my time as Attorney General and in the U.S. Senate, I’ve continued to see the urgent need to help domestic violence victims find safe and reliable housing to escape their abusers,” said Heitkamp. “In addition to providing women and children with safety and residential stability, we also must focus on giving victims and their families the counselling, legal services, and other resources they need to get back on their feet. Today, I heard from community leaders, victims’ advocates, and law enforcement about how the important services offered at Mary’s Place will give the Jamestown community additional tools to provide critical transitional housing and other services for victims of domestic violence in the area. Community efforts like this one— combined with federal efforts I’ve supported like the Violence Against Women Act— make huge differences in reducing incidents of domestic violence, keeping our communities strong and safe, and giving hope to those looking to leave dangerous and traumatic situations.”
“Too many victims of domestic violence don’t receive the comprehensive support they need to escape the violence and permanently leave an abusive relationship,” said Lynne Tally, Executive Director, Mary’s Place at Safe Shelter. “Thankfully, the Jamestown community has graciously stepped up to help address this challenge, and Mary’s Place will provide temporary housing options and wraparound services that best support survivors in our area. We greatly appreciate Senator Heitkamp visiting the new facility today and working to raise awareness about the need for emergency and transitional housing and supportive services across North Dakota. As we work together to stop the spread of family violence, she continues to stand up for domestic violence survivors and their families in our state.”
In one survey, 51.5 percent of U.S. domestic violence victims who sought housing services did not receive them, meaning they may have been forced to stay in or return to an abusive environment. And on just one day in 2016, 80 percent of unmet requests for emergency domestic violence services in North Dakota were related to housing.
Heitkamp has continued to prioritize transitional housing for domestic violence victims in North Dakota while seeking justice against their abusers. In December 2017, Heitkamp introduced her bipartisan bill—the HEALS Act— to increase transitional housing support and encourage community housing options that best support survivors. And in October 2017 as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Heitkamp toured the Minot Domestic Violence Crisis Center and helped present additional funding for its transitional housing facilities.
Heitkamp has long worked to support transitional housing for victims and bring greater attention to domestic violence and trauma in North Dakota communities, including by:
- Successfully fighting for greater protections for tribal communities in Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. The first bill Heitkamp cosponsored in the U.S. Senate was the reauthorization of VAWA, which she then played a key role in pushing through Congress. Heitkamp worked to include a key provision in VAWA to address the continuing crisis of violence against women in tribal communities. The provision strengthens the existing programs and provides tribal governments the force they need to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators who commit these crimes on tribal land. In 2015, Heitkamp supported a year-end spending deal that included a significant increase in federal funding to support domestic violence victims. The $480 million in federal support from the Office on Violence Against Women was a $50 million increase from the previous year, to be used for victims’ services, legal, training and technical assistance, as well as research and analysis on violence against Native women.
- Seeking justice against perpetrators of domestic violence. In August 2017, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill to combat domestic abuse and sexual violence by promoting pro-bono legal services for victims of these crimes.
- Raising awareness of domestic violence resources in North Dakota. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month last October, Heitkamp met with staff and board members at Fargo’s Rape and Abuse Crisis Center which offers resources for domestic, sexual, and dating violence survivors. In October 2014, Heitkamp met with community leaders, advocates, and victims services in Fargo and Minot to highlight the need to address domestic violence as a public health crisis. Heitkamp also toured the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) in Grand Forks and in Minot in 2015 to see programs supporting victims and combatting domestic violence in each region.
- Addressing emerging challenges in North Dakota to better combat domestic violence. In 2014, Heitkamp convened a task force of experts, law enforcement and leaders across the state in launching her Strong & Safe Communities Initiative to address emerging challenges – including a rise in domestic violence – in the wake of the oil and gas boom. In August 2016, Heitkamp released her Strong & Safe Communities Report offering a comprehensive set of proposals to address challenges facing North Dakota, including solutions on domestic violence and a host of other issues facing the state.