Levin Amendment to Help Survivors Seeking Justice Included in VAWA
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which will secure more funding for services that help survivors heal and make sure they can get justice. The House just voted to include an amendment offered by Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) in the final package and he released the following statement:
“I’m feeling especially emotional about this vote today because I was able to get an amendment included in this bill that was inspired by a conversation I had with a constituent last year. She had survived a sexual assault and shared that, over the course of her legal proceedings, she’d had five different prosecutors on her case. And, not surprisingly, she felt like none of them were really representing her.
“This is a process that’s harrowing enough on its own. To have to relive what happened over and over in order to get a new attorney up to speed—to not feel like you have a relationship with that person—it’s just unthinkable to me.
“She asked that I do what I could to encourage what’s called ‘vertical prosecution,’ a plan for prosecuting cases in which one individual prosecuting attorney remains the primary individual responsible for the case, as well as the primary contact for victim witnesses from complaint through sentencing. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, ‘vertical prosecution has shown to improve conviction rates, reduce victim trauma, and provide more consistent, appropriate sentencing.’
“As you can imagine, one of the big reasons vertical prosecution doesn’t happen as much as it should is the cost. District attorneys’ offices do not always have the resources to hire more attorneys to handle cases. My amendment that we’re passing today will allow funding from this bill to be used to implement vertical prosecution systems. I want every survivor’s case to get the attention and care it deserves and, most importantly, I want every survivor to feel like they are truly heard and represented.
“I want to thank the constituent who shared her story with me and every person out there who is speaking out about how we can better take care of survivors. Your bravery is why we’re here passing this bill today, and I’m just honored to be a part of it.”