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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GOWDY. Liz Chesterman was an honors graduate from Hollins University in Virginia. Then she got her Ph.D. in molecular biology. Then she became a patent agent with the largest law firm in South Carolina. And she still wasn't done. At night, she would sit in the kitchen and study for the LSAT. She was going to go to law school. She wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer. But her greatest accomplishment was her character. She was smart, hardworking, a source of joy and inspiration in the lives of everyone who worked with her and knew her.

And with just a little bit of luck, Madam Speaker, Liz Chesterman could be speaking to you from the floor of the House of Representatives. With just a little bit of luck, she would be representing South Carolina in Congress. But she's not in the House of Representatives, Madam Speaker. She's in a cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her husband couldn't stand her success, so he abused her. She tried to escape, and she almost made it. She made it to the back door, where he met her with a shovel, and he broke every single bone in her face. And then he nearly decapitated her, leaving her in a pool of blood in the kitchen where she used to study for the LSAT.

I run into her mom from time to time, Madam Speaker, in South Carolina. She comes back for a victims right service. She's just like Liz, warm and compassionate. And she always asks: What can I do to help? Imagine that, a mother who lost a daughter in such a horrific way wants to help.

And that got me wondering, well, maybe we should be asking what we can do to help because we really can help. We can provide women a safe harbor. We can provide the means to leave abusive relationships. We can provide women the counseling that they need. We can accelerate the prosecution of sexual assault cases so women don't have to wait and wonder and worry about whether or not they're going to be abused again before the case gets to trial. We can do all of that; but, I think, Madam Speaker, we can do more.

When my daughter was little, she would ask me to look under her bed for monsters, and I did. But as our little girls grow into women, we realize the monsters are not under the bed. The monsters are in the bed and in the den and in the kitchen and on the college campuses and walking the halls of the high schools and on the computer and on the phone. And for some women, especially today, the monster is this broken political system that we have, a broken political system which manufactures reasons to oppose otherwise good bills just to deny one side a victory.

The House version protects every single American, period, but it will not get a single Democrat vote because it is our version. Welcome to our broken political system. I never ask a victim if she is a Republican or a Democrat. I never ask a police officer if he or she is a Republican or a Democrat. I never ask a counselor if she is a Republican or a Democrat. I never ask the parents of a victim if they are a Republican or a Democrat because there are some things that ought to be bigger than politics, and protecting people who cannot protect themselves ought to be one of them.

And I had hoped that the House bill would allow us, Madam Speaker, to join arms and walk on a common journey of protecting people who are innocent and cannot protect themselves. And I had hoped, Madam Speaker, that this fractured body could possibly be healed by something that ought to be nonpartisan, like protecting women against violence. And I had hoped, Madam Speaker, that just for 1 day, just 1 day, we will stop scoring political points against each other and try to score political points for other people. And I had hoped, Madam Speaker, that just for 1 day this body could speak with one clear, strong voice for all the women who are too tired and too scared and too hurt and too dead to speak for themselves. I had hoped that today would be the day.

Maybe next time, Madam Speaker, maybe next time.


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