Durbin: With these two pieces of legislation, we can prove to every survivor in America that they are not alone
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) applauded the passage of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, legislation that will prevent survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault from being forced into secretive, biased forced arbitration proceedings. Durbin also called on the Senate to pass the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act (VAWA), which was introduced by Senators Durbin, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The bill would reauthorize VAWA through 2027, preserve advancements made in previous reauthorizations, and includes a number of additional improvements to the current law.
Durbin thanked the brave survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and harassment on the floor and highlighted many of their stories.
“Both of these bills are the product of months of bipartisan negotiations,” said Durbin. “And they will ensure that survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault can reach for a lifeline in a moment of crisis and seek justice against their abusers. At a time when nearly one in three women living today say they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, this Senate must be united in standing with survivors. With these two pieces of legislation, we can prove to them, and every survivor in America, that they are not alone.”
Durbin shared the story of a survivor, Meaghan, who was brutally assaulted by her ex-husband. Today, her ex-husband has six open warrants for his arrest. Meaghan’s story is just one example of the world of difference VAWA has made for victims of sexual and domestic violence. In her case, VAWA provided critical resources to law enforcement and social service agencies that helped her and her family escape a perilous situation. Every day, domestic violence hotlines throughout the country receive roughly 20,000 calls from victims, or people who are at risk of intimate partner violence.
Durbin continued, “It’s been nine years since we last reauthorized VAWA, and four years since that reauthorization expired. Survivors can’t wait longer. Let’s send this law to President Biden’s desk as soon as possible.”
In his speech, Durbin also spoke in support for the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act. The bill passed the Senate today and was introduced by Senators Durbin, Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), and Lindsay Graham (R-SC). It was introduced in the House by Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL).
Durbin continued, “The premise of this legislation is simple: survivors of sexual assault or harassment deserve their day in court, if that’s what they wish. They should be able to choose whether to bring a case forward, instead of being forced into a secret arbitration proceeding where the deck is often stacked against them. It’s become increasingly clear that forced arbitration clauses have enabled sexual abusers to escape scrutiny while their victims are compelled to stay silent. That’s just plain wrong. Survivors deserve accountability. And that’s exactly what this law will deliver. Far too many survivors have been locked out of the court system because of a forced arbitration clause buried in the fine print of a contract. ”
Durbin concluded, “Today has been an historic day in the United State Senate. With the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, the rights of every survivor will be protected.”
Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.
Under the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, forced arbitration clauses will no longer prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them. Following passage, Durbin and his senate colleagues held a press conference celebrating the landmark bill. Participants included Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and former Fox News anchor and advocate Gretchen Carlson. The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
The bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act would modernize and strengthen the landmark law. Specifically, the bill would strengthen rape prevention and education efforts and services and protections for young survivors; expand and authorize programs to ensure that VAWA provides access to survivors in rural areas, survivors requiring culturally specific services, LGBT survivors, and survivors who seek voluntary, community-based restorative practice services; provide support for legal services funding and trauma-informed law enforcement responses; improve the response to sexual violence, including through grants to promote the training of sexual assault forensic examiners; and expand special criminal jurisdiction by tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse co-occurring with domestic violence, stalking, sex trafficking and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands.