As Congress attempts to reach a consensus on legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to advocate for the inclusion of language that better protects victims of domestic violence and abuse in rural areas.
In her testimony, Hyde-Smith stressed that women in rural areas face unique challenges when both making the decision to seek help and accessing that help. She explained that, before seeking help, women in these communities must often overcome cultural norms that prioritize family privacy, traditional gender roles and keeping their families together.
In terms of accessing care, Hyde-Smith shared that more than 25% of women in rural settings reside at least 40 miles from the closest service provider compared to less than 1% in urban areas.
“All of us in Congress can agree that our goal should be to ensure that these women in rural areas—and, indeed all victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and stalking—are protected and receive the services that they need,” Hyde-Smith said.
She went on to state the House of Representatives has passed their own VAWA legislation, but the senator fears that it “would perpetuate a stalemate existing since 2018 when reauthorization efforts collapsed due to partisan disputes over Second Amendment rights and other issues.”
“I call on this committee and Senate Leadership to adopt a reauthorization bill this month that embodies language on which we agree, including a greater emphasis on serving victims in rural areas,” Hyde-Smith said. “In the meantime, I believe we should continue to work together in good faith to resolve the remaining areas where we’ve yet to reach consensus,” Hyde-Smith said.
Watch Hyde-Smith’s full testimony below: