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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. AL GREEN of Texas. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and as a compliment to my colleagues who just left the floor, I'd like to compliment them for the bipartisanship that was shown. And perhaps bipartisanship is becoming in vogue because this is a bipartisan effort as well.

It is my firm belief that our Nation, while we have some differences on many issues, we do want to unite around issues that are crucial and critical to all of us. I salute what they have done, and I look forward to this hour of bipartisanship as well.

I'm honored to be joined today on the floor by my colleague, the Honorable Ted Poe from Texas. He and I have been sponsoring this resolution on domestic violence for some years--since 2005, I believe--and I am honored that he is here with us today. I will be giving a statement. And after my statement, I will yield to my good friend from the State of Texas, in the Houston area. Thereafter, we have other Members who are present who would of course want to weigh in on this subject. But before I do, let me just thank the leadership on both sides of the aisle for making this time available to us. It's important that we have this opportunity to address this issue not only here in Congress, but address it in such a way as to make it clear to our friends and our constituents at home that this is something that is exceedingly important to us, the issue of domestic violence.

So Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time. I thank the leadership for the time. And I thank all of the Members who will be appearing today for the time that they will share with us.

I'd like to, at this time, present my opening statement. Thereafter, I will yield as I have indicated.

Mr. Speaker, there are several Federal actions that have been instituted over the past 20 years to combat the issue of domestic violence. I shall highlight some of the many actions that have been taken.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed 22 years ago in the month of October. This month provides an opportunity for our communities to recommit themselves to keeping the victims and the families of domestic violence safe while holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions.

I'm honored to say that the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which was championed by then-Senator Joe Biden, has created a new culture for police officers, judges, and those who work in the courthouse to treat this crime as the serious crime that it is, and it is a serious crime. I look forward to supporting the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. And I want to say, by way of a little bit of commentary, that I was a lawyer practicing before we had a change in this culture. And I saw how this culture that existed at that time devastated the lives of many persons who were victims of domestic violence because there was this thought that this was something that was a family issue, that it was something that people should resolve themselves, they should try to work things out. I thank God that that attitude no longer exists, and that if it does exist in some quarters, we are working to change it. I would also add that the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act supports emergency shelters, crisis intervention programs, and community education about domestic violence.

This Congress has done much to try to reach out not only to the victims, but also to the various communities against the length and breadth of the country to make sure that communities are well prepared and equipped to help those in need of some assistance.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided law enforcement with the tools it needed to protect families. It specifically included $225 million for Violence Against Women programs and $100 million for programs that are a part of the Victims of Crime Act. These funds will supplement Federal dollars so that local providers can retain and hire the personnel to serve victims and hold offenders accountable. We also provided critical funding for law enforcement to keep cops on the street and to support law enforcement programs and services through the Byrne Grant program. In 2010, 854 local domestic violence programs received stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which allowed them to maintain or create 1,384 jobs.

Awareness of domestic violence is growing. All over this country and over the last several decades the work of many individuals and organizations has created a sea of change in the way we as a society look upon the issue of domestic violence. Police, courts, and the public used to consider it a private family matter, as I indicated previously. Not surprisingly, domestic violence was close to, if not the, number one underreported crime in

this country. Today, there is much more awareness. And we have started to pass critical legislation at both the State and Federal levels so that we can combat domestic violence properly.

We have made a substantial impact on the lives of domestic violence survivors through laws, programs, services, and funding, but our jobs are not yet done. We have seen much progress. However, there is still much more to be done. In the year 2010, a survey was done by the National Network to End Domestic Violence. This survey found that in one day, while more than 70,000 people received help from domestic violence programs, over 9,000 requests for help went unanswered because of a shortage of resources.

Many victims continue to suffer in silence, and for many others who do come forward, there simply are not enough resources available. Victims of domestic violence should have access to medical and legal services, counseling, transitional housing, safety planning, and other supportive services so that they can escape the cycle of abuse.

The problem of domestic violence is not confined to any one group of people but crosses all economic, racial, gender, educational, religious, and societal barriers, and it is sustained too often by societal indifference. Make no mistake about it, when domestic violence occurs, it has a long-term damaging effect. And it has this effect on the victim, but not only the victim; it also leaves a mark on the family of the victim, the friends, and the community at large.

In my home State of Texas, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence--and this is a special report; it indicates that 37 women in Harris County, a county where my district happens to be--37 women lost their lives due to domestic violence in 2010. One hundred forty-two women were killed by their intimate partners in 2010. There were 56 occurrences of murder-suicides in Texas in 2010, which often left children without one or both of their parents. Three 17-year-old high school students were murdered in Texas in 2010. Five pregnant women were murdered in Texas in 2010. No year is a good year for the victims of domestic violence, and 2010 was no exception.

The current statistics are staggering. One in every four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Three women are killed by an acquaintance or former intimate partner each day in America, on average. The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, including $4.1 billion in direct health care expenses. Domestic violence has been estimated to cost employers in the U.S. up to $13 billion annually.

Sexual violence is intolerable in our society because it creates a cycle of violence.

As many as 15.5 million children witness domestic violence every year in our country. Children who are exposed to this sort of violence are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs, run away from home, engage in teenage prostitution, and commit sexual assault crimes.

Men exposed to physical abuse, sexual abuse, and adult domestic violence as children were almost four times more likely than other men to have perpetrated domestic violence as adults, according to a large survey that has been reported.

This is a call to action. Let us rededicate ourselves to the goal of ending violence against women and helping heal the lives of domestic violence survivors and their families. No one should have to live in fear in their own home, and we must continue to work to eliminate these acts of violence from our society.

Nearly 1.3 million women will confront violent acts this year. America's leaders and our Nation's families must not let this stand. Let us continue to work to end domestic violence and make every home a safe home.

I urge my colleagues to stand with us and support the survivors and their families by supporting the programs that target this insidious ill of domestic violence.

At this time I am honored to yield to my colleague and friend from Houston, Texas (Mr. Poe).


Mr. AL GREEN of Texas. I thank the lady, especially for citing the statistical information. It is important for our Nation and our country to understand that these are real people who are being harmed and that this is not something that occurs in some segments of society. This crosses all lines--economic lines, gender lines, political lines--and it's up to us to have bipartisan efforts to end this.

I'm honored that my friend, Mr. Poe, has joined us today, as this has been a bipartisan effort. But we've got to get this message back to the communities because indifference is what allows this to continue to a certain extent. No one should be indifferent. Everybody has a duty to report it, everybody has a duty to condemn it. And if we do this, then we can make every person who performs an act of violence persona non grata in our communities.

I want to thank the Speaker for the time. One hour is never enough to cover all that we should cover, but I'm grateful to the leadership for giving us the 1 hour that we've had.

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