On March 4, the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and Lifetime Television kicked off their “Stop Violence Week in Washington” initiative. The week-long campaign was intended to increase awareness about violence against women and make eradication of that violence a national priority. In addition to a number of events held throughout the week, the Women’s Caucus and Lifetime Television hosted a congressional briefing on the subject on March 7.
Caucus Co-Chairs Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) opened the day-long briefing and were joined by several colleagues: Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lois Capps (D-CA), Julia Carson (D-IN), Danny Davis (D-IL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Melissa Hart (R-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Diane Watson (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
“You don’t have to be a woman to support what the Caucus is doing,” stated Rep. Engel, expressing his support for the event. Rep. Danny Davis agreed, saying, “If we want equity in America…one way to bring that about is to stop violence against women.”
Saying the event was a “historic meeting” to “take stock of where we are,” Rep. Biggert moderated the first panel, “Preventing Violence and Seeking Justice.” Panelists discussed a wide range of issues, including strategies to break the cycle of violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, funding for forensic exams, training for health care providers to identify and refer victims of violence, increasing awareness among judicial personnel, the judicial system and civil legal assistance, programs for children who witness domestic violence, and the role of the media.
Rep. Schakowsky moderated the second panel, entitled “Services and Employment Challenges to Stopping the Violence.” While noting that Congress had recently reauthorized and increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act, Rep. Schakowsky said, “We will not be able to declare victory until we no longer need shelter beds for battered women.” The panel discussed workplace and economic self-sufficiency issues for battered women. Discussants addressed the need to better educate employers and human resources personnel as to the needs of battered women in the workplace. Obstacles to achieving economic self-sufficiency, included the issue of housing, were discussed. Panelists addressed the provision of services to immigrant women, elderly women, disabled women, and Native American women.
The third panel, “The International Fight Against Violence,” was moderated by Rep. Millender-McDonald. Panelists discussed the need to increase efforts to combat trafficking in women and children, called for the United States to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, addressed the ongoing needs of women in Afghanistan, detailed the problem of female genital mutilation, and discussed problems facing refugees and displaced persons.
At the conclusion of the briefing, Rep. Millender-McDonald declared her intention to follow up on several of the issues raised by the panelists. Noting the success that World AIDS Day had in raising the awareness of HIV/AIDS globally, she said, “I think the U.N. should have a World Violence Against Women Day,” and pledged to discuss the issue with Secretary General Kofi Annan in April when the Women’s Caucus meets with him.
Additionally, on March 6 and 7, several members of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues spoke about the issue of violence against women on the House floor. Rep. Capito, Vice Chair of the Caucus, said that domestic violence complaints in her home state have increased by 400 percent since 1998. “We must keep in mind that battering behavior is prevalent across all lines of race, ethnicity, geography, education, social class, religion, and sexual orientation and that battering has adverse, long-term psychological, emotional, physical, and economic effects on women and children.”
Rep. Carson noted that “domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in this country, where they are more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a male partner than by any other type of assailant.”
Reps. Schakowsky and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) spoke about International Women’s Day. “The U.S. estimates that one out of every three women and girls has been beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime,” said Rep. Schakowsky, adding, “Our war against terrorism should include ending violence against women.” Rep. Baldwin concurred, “Those who say that ending domestic violence is impossible need only look at the progress made in Afghanistan to know that we can make a difference.”
Addressing the need to better train health care providers to identify domestic violence, Rep. Capps said, “Routine screening for domestic violence would unlock options a woman may not otherwise pursue and allow her to see that shelter and advocacy services may be useful to her.”
Additionally, Reps. Danny Davis, Sam Farr (D-CA), Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI), Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), and Watson submitted remarks for the record.