October 16, 2014


HONOLULU – Senator Mazie K. Hirono today chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing titled, “Accessing Support: How the Violence Against Women Act Serves Hawaii Military Families Experiencing Domestic Violence.” The hearing focused on how to best coordinate and utilize resources and services for military families experiencing intimate partner abuse. The hearing coincides with “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” and the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

At the field hearing, Senator Hirono heard directly from military representatives, government leaders and service providers with the goal of forging stronger connections between these entities to better serve military families affected by domestic violence.

Witnesses included:

The Honorable David Louie, Hawaii State Attorney General
Colonel Derrick Arincorayan, U.S. Army Hawaii
Ms. Cindy Morita, U.S. Army Hawaii
Ms. Dawn Ogden, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Ms. Nanci Kreidman, Domestic Violence Action Center
Ms. Marci Lopes, Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing will be re-televised on Olelo Community Media Oceanic Cable channel 49 on the following dates:

- Monday, October 27, 3:30pm
- Wednesday, October 29, 3:30pm
- Thursday, October 30, 8:00pm
- Wednesday, November 5, 8:00pm

Senator Hirono’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, is as follows:

Twenty years ago, on September 13, 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law. VAWA represented a major shift in the way Congress approached the issue of domestic violence. With enactment of VAWA, Congress acknowledged a federal role in recognizing that domestic violence is not a private matter to be kept among family and suffered in silence. It’s a crime — and should be treated as such.

VAWA recognized that domestic violence is a complicated, multi-faceted crime that defies easy solutions. The root causes of domestic violence are varied, though they often involve power and control. Stressors can include age, a history of family violence, and a large number of socioeconomic factors. To address this fact, VAWA looked to prevent domestic violence and related crimes by encouraging collaboration among law enforcement, the judiciary, and both public and private sector service providers.

As part of our ongoing commitment to ending domestic violence, Congress has reauthorized the VAWA three times since 1994.

I have supported domestic violence legislation since first taking elected office more than thirty years ago, and am proud that one of the first major bills I worked on as a Senator was the 2013 VAWA reauthorization. I cosponsored that bill, which focused on expanding VAWA protections and services to better serve Indian Country, the LGBT community, and protecting women regardless of their immigrant status.

After 20 years, more people are able to seek VAWA’s protections; and more services are available to meet the needs of distinct communities and populations than ever before.

But work remains.

Every year, on the anniversary of VAWA’s passage, the National Network to End Domestic Violence conducts a count of adults and children served by domestic service providers across the country. As a snapshot, on September 17, 2013 nearly 70,000 people – including 575 from Hawaii sought services.

Still, while service providers helped nearly 70,000 people that day, there were still nearly 10,000 men and women who sought services and whose needs were not met.

There are populations that VAWA does not cover.

One community that has been largely removed from the VAWA conversation is the military – our active duty personnel and their families. That does not mean that military men and women go unserved.

For many years the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP) and other support services have provided military victims with assistance. These programs work with perpetrators and their military command to prevent domestic violence and enforce appropriate consequences.

We know that the military population faces different challenges than the population at large. Females who are between 20 and 24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal, intimate partner violence. In 2012, nearly one half of active duty enlisted military personnel were under the age of 25. While this should not be taken to indicate higher instances of domestic violence in the military, the age factor is worth noting.

There are also emotional and psychological stressors that military and their families experience that are not shared by the rest of us. Deployments, for example, present a specific type of long-term absence from home. The transition back to civilian life after deployment is also challenging, particularly for those who have been in combat.

These are just two possible, contributing factors to potential domestic violence in the military. What we do know is that military connected men and women are seeking non-military provided services.

During a two week period in September of 2014, the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) worked with 40 active duty personnel or intimate partners of active duty personnel. That is 4 people a day, over a 10 day period. Active duty military and their families are part of our community, and they should be able to seek services when and where they feel most comfortable.

Attorney General Louie has noted in his written testimony that VAWA stakeholders have identified three priority areas for collaboration of services. The first two, appropriately, are providing enhanced training for first responders and improving outreach to underserved populations. The third issue identified is addressing the need for services sought by military connected men and women. To this end, I anticipate expanding upon the Attorney General’s VAWA military working group’s efforts.

The main question we want to answer today is not why men and women are seeking services off base. Rather, we’re focusing on how to best address the needs of these men and women. Given current federal budget constraints, we must examine how existing Department of Defense and VAWA resources can be used to ensure quality services for our service members and their families.

How can we ensure that there is a continuum of care, a safety net, for men and women involved in abusive relationships regardless of where an abusive incident occurs, when it happens, or who employs those affected?

As we gain a better understanding of the unique stressors that impact military personnel, how can we fit their specific needs into the program directives of VAWA?

I believe the answer is through collaboration, which VAWA has envisioned since its first enacted: collaboration among state and local governments, service providers, and the Department of Defense.

It will take a community-wide effort for us to eliminate this community-wide problem.

Today’s hearing is an opportunity to hear from the various stakeholders on strengthening collaboration between civilian and military service providers, to see where there is overlap and learn where collaboration can be fostered or improved upon.

As a Member of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, I look forward to working with appropriate stakeholders to ensure that we do the best we can, in both the military and civilian sectors, to meet the needs of military connected victims of domestic violence.

Thank you.