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Greg Diehl, Published May 29 2012

Berg deserves our support for vote on version of VAWA

I applaud U.S. Rep. Rick Berg for voting against HR 4970, the House version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.

Leading up to the vote in the House, Berg had an open dialogue with directors of crisis intervention centers across North Dakota. He met with those of us who work with these issues every day to discuss victim services and the impact of the House version of the VAWA reauthorization on our work. Beyond the meeting with state personal violence experts, Berg took time to contact me directly just prior to the House vote. It was my feeling that the House version of VAWA wasn’t right for North Dakota service providers or victims. He understood that a vote against the House version of this bill could likely be misconstrued and used negatively in upcoming campaign strategies but voted for what was best. With his vote, he rallied against the political gamesmanship and did the right thing for North Dakota and the victims we seek to help.

I appreciate Berg choosing the difficult alternative and recognizing the need to put good policy over Washington politics. Domestic violence and sexual assault is incredibly serious and using these issues as a tool for political attacks is not right. Doing so does an extreme disservice to our organization and services for abused women, men and children here in North Dakota.

Seven years ago, in 2005, re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate and passed in the House with a vote of 415-4. Today, just as in 2005, this reauthorization is too important to get caught up in Washington’s political games.

Regardless of the political party our congressional leaders identify with, our goal will always be to support measures that protect and enhance the services for victims of violence and assault. I believe it is good practice to work with our current legislative leaders who are in a position to effect policy. My hope is that a compromise between the House and Senate bills will allow for services to continue for all women and children in North Dakota. Until such time that we do not have individuals victimized, we need to stand together in bringing legislation that will best serve all who are affected.

Diehl is executive director of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead.