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Gender-Based Violence

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WILSON of Florida. Mr. Speaker, ``gender-based violence''--a phrase the world has coined to speak internationally about violence, abuse, rape, assault, and disrespect of women. Women like our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, and most especially our children.

Gender-based violence permeates the world, generally in far away countries, far from the civilized democratic world that we communicate with and befriend.

To the women of this Congress and the women of the world, take a moment to imagine trying to survive without a response from the police, without the ability to press charges and being able to actually see your assailant day after day if you are a victim of gender-based violence. Contemplate life without access to medical care to address your physical, mental, and emotional trauma. Imagine having nowhere to hide.

This scenario sounds like 100 years ago in a world far from our country, but in reality it is just a two-hour flight away from my congressional district of Miami, Florida. It actually describes gender-based violence in Haiti. But through smart policy and the strength and courage of Haitian women, it's a reality that's within our power to change.

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti brought a striking increase in incidents of gender-based violence. Nearly half of the victims are girls under 18, and many cases involve the use of weapons, gang rape, and death threats for seeking help from authorities. These threats, coupled with the lack of police presence and equipment, hurts the integrity of Haiti's legal system and denies women and girls their basic dignity.

The National Penitentiary was destroyed in the earthquake, freeing countless violent prisoners who now roam the streets. Through the determination and grace of the Haitian people and smart assistance from the Obama administration and international NGOs, some change is coming to Haiti. Most of the rubble has been removed, more than a million Haitians have moved out of tent camps, jobs have been created, schools have been built, yet core challenges, including gender-based violence, remain severe.

Today, I am introducing a resolution calling attention to the plight of Haitian women and children and calling for action on their behalf. With its Strategy to Prevent Gender-Based Violence, the Obama administration is on the right track. Congress and the administration must ensure robust funding for these initiatives, including the U.S. Agency of International Development's Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy, to meet the continuing need.

For me, this issue is personal. I have seen the tent cities firsthand. I have spoken to the women. I have counseled the victims and witnessed the scars of indignation and pain. I feel the anguish in my bones, but I also feel the hope.

Let's work together to ensure that no woman in Haiti, no woman in this hemisphere or in this world, has to bear the indignity of sexual violence.


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