I rise today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.
Our nation has certainly come a long way in the advancing the rights of women.
Just a few weeks ago, our country celebrated Women’s Equality Day, a date commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
Women, united together, against incredible odds, have fought for the right to participate in our democratic process.
And now, 94 years later, our fight for our dignity continues in our own homes: the war being waged against domestic violence.
The Violence Against Women Act embodies that fight against women being brutalized by those who claim to love us.
The Violence Against Women Act provides the resources for women to access police protection, legal services and social services.
The passage and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was a victory for our country.
A victory for Native American women who’d been raped and brutalized on tribal lands with impunity.
A victory for LGBTQ victims whose agony was ignored because of their gender identity.
A victory for young women in college whose institutions were derelict in their response to “boys just being boys.”
A victory for children whose emotional wounds had scabbed over with no healing balm.
We can take comfort knowing that the Violence Against Women Act is making a true difference in the lives of countless women across the country.
It has helped reduce domestic violence by shifting the way our culture responds to it. For instance, our Services – Training – Officers – Prosecutors (S.T.O.P.) grant program provides vital funding to local communities, giving them the tools they need to strengthen the state’s criminal justice system response for victims.
And the Violence Against Women Act isn’t just socially responsible; it’s fiscally responsible as well.
In its first six years alone, the Violence Against Women Act saved taxpayers at least $12.6 billion in net averted social costs. A recent study found that civil protection orders saved one state, Kentucky, on average $85 million in a single year.
The road to this victory wasn’t travelled alone. As I look around, I see many of those who stood with me in the face of partisan opposition and obstruction. I see the faces of friends and champions like Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. John Conyers, and Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But let us not forget to talk about those who walked with us outside these halls. Champions like President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, President and Secretary Clinton, and Kim Gandy of the National Network to End Violence, and all the Native American tribes who showed up to stand for the reauthorization.
As I stand here remembering those who have walked with us, I am reminded that soon in my home district of Milwaukee, our community will once again host the annual Brides Walk, sponsored by the UMOS Latina Resource Center. This walk commemorates a Dominican- American woman who was brutally murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend in New Jersey on her wedding day. This beautiful bride was shot dead in her wedding dress.
This event, the Brides Walk, was inspired by a staunch advocate for women’s rights, Josie Ashton, who raised awareness about domestic violence by walking from New Jersey to Florida, donning her own wedding dress, sleeping in shelters along the way to show the problems and challenges of domestic violence, a reminder that sometimes so-called love can turn to abuse.
The Brides Walk will be celebrated by women donning wedding gowns and walking through the streets of Milwaukee, speaking up against domestic violence. They will be accompanied by brave men who will walk by their sides.
So I urge people in Milwaukee to join the march against domestic violence and to use social media to bring attention to this pressing issue.