THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Santa Fe, New Mexico) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 25, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT REAUTHORIZATION EVENT Genoveva Chavez Community Center Santa Fe, New Mexico
2:32 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Connie, you can drink my water anytime. (Laughter.) Didn't she do a good job? I was really proud of her. Thank you. (Applause.)
Thank you, Greg Neal, for welcoming us here in this beautiful, beautiful center. I'd like to thank your Congressman, Representative Tom Udall, for joining us today. Thank you, Tom, for being here. (Applause.)
And Attorney General Patsy Madrid, thank you for being here. (Applause.) A little bird told me this was your birthday today, so thank you for spending your birthday with us, in a worthy cause.
Santa Fe Mayor pro tem, Carol Robertson Lopez, thank you for being here. (Applause.) I thank the members of the city council and county commission and many others who have come here. Our former U.S. Attorney, John Kelly, and my college classmate, thank you for being here. (Applause.) I've got a lot of other personal friends here, as well as those of you who are involved in these endeavors and I thank you.
But most of all I want to express my appreciation to the brave women in this audience who have survived the horrors and fears of domestic violence for being with us today and for being in this very public setting. Connie, I thank you for sharing your story with us and for somehow finding the strength to help other women deal with theirs.
We are here today to salute your efforts, to recognize that progress has been made and to remind all Americans that the struggle with domestic violence is far from over. We're also here because, on Saturday night, on the very eve of National Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Violence Against Women Act will actually expire without congressional action.
We're here to say to Congress we owe it to women like Connie Trujillo and millions of others, and their children and families, to reauthorize and to strengthen the Violence Against Women Act and to do it this week, now, before the clock runs out. (Applause.)
For too long, women like those who have been victimized in this room today fought a lonely battle. For too long, domestic violence was an issue kept behind closed doors, treated as a purely private family matter. Despite the fact that it usually does occur at home, despite the fact that victims are almost always women and children, domestic violence is not just a family problem that neighbors can ignore, not just a woman's problem men can turn away from, it is America's problem.
The statistics speak for themselves. Domestic violence is the number one health risk for women between the ages of 15 and 44 in our nation. Close to a third of all the women murdered in America were killed by their husbands, former husbands or boyfriends. Every 12 seconds another woman is beaten, amounting to nearly 900,000 victims every single year. And we know that in half the families where a spouse is beaten, the children are beaten, too.
Domestic violence is a crime that affects us all. It increases health costs, keeps people from showing up to work, prevents them from performing at their best, keeps children out of school, often prevents them from learning. It destroys families, relationships and lives, and often prevents children from growing up to establish successful families of their own. It tears at the fabric of who we are as a people and what we want for our children's tomorrows.
For many years, when Hillary and I were living in Arkansas, we lived very close to the domestic violence shelter and center in our hometown. We spent lots of hours there, talking to the women and the children and listening to their stories. I'm very proud of the fact that after we moved to Washington, Hillary traveled all around the world to highlight the fact that violence against women and children is not an American problem, it's a global problem, with different manifestations; and in many places violent practices masquerade as cultural traditions. That is wrong.
And I have to tell you that every time I come into a setting like this, I think about the encounters that -- because of Hillary's efforts -- I've had with village women in remote places in Africa and in Latin America. And it is truly chilling to think about all the different rationalizations people have cooked up all over the world to justify men beating up on women and twisting the lives of their children.
We have come a long way in the United States in recognizing that this is criminal conduct; that there may be deep-seated emotional reasons for it which treatment is a better answer for than incarceration in some cases. But it's a crime. And it's a crime against the people who suffer and against the children who are tormented by it, very often for the rest of their lives, and against the larger society that we are trying to build.
For eight years now, the Vice President and I have tried to convey this simple message. Our message to the perpetrators is that you should be punished; and to the victims is we want you to have safety and security. No American should live in fear, least of all in his or her own home.
The Violence Against Women Act was part of our landmark 1994 Crime Bill. It was the very first time in the history of America that the nation's government, in a comprehensive effort, joined those of you here and your counterparts all across America in standing up and making common cause on this issue.
The Violence Against Women Act imposes tough penalties for actions of violence against women. It also helps to train police and prosecutors and judges so they can better understand domestic violence, something which, believe it or not, is still a significant problem all across the United States.
It helps to train people to recognize the symptoms when they see it. It helps people, perhaps most important of all, to take appropriate, systematic steps to prevent it. The law gives grants to shelters who need more beds and better programs; it provides assistance to law enforcement, the courts and communities, to help them respond to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking when they occur.
It established a 24-hour, seven-day, toll-free, national domestic violence hotline, to help women get emergency help and counseling, find a shelter, report abuse to authorities. Since 1996, this hotline has given more than 500,000 people a place to call to find help when they need it most.
The Act has offered hope to countless numbers of women by letting them know they are not alone. Police officers who often shy away from so-called family squabbles should now get involved. Physical violence is unacceptable in our homes.
The law's impact is no clearer than here in Sante Fe, where the Act and its much needed funding has helped make the city's streets, schools and homes safer. With the Act's help, Connie and her Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families provided counseling and shelter to nearly 2,000 families last year.
With the Act's help, eight northern Indian pueblo councils here in Santa Fe now have the means to give legal advice and victims counseling to native American women, and proper training to tribal police departments, courts and prosecutors. With the Act's help, the Morning Star Program in Albuquerque provides safe houses and support groups for victims and their families. All told, the Violence Against Women Act has dedicated nearly -- listen to this -- $1.7 billion since 1994 to programs combatting domestic violence around our nation, including more than $173 million this year alone.
Today, the Department of Justice will award nearly $2 million in Violence Against Women Act funds to combat domestic violence here in New Mexico, to strengthen tribal law enforcement, address child abuse and domestic violence in rural areas and improve civil legal assistance programs. (Applause.)
Now, has all this made a difference? Well, thanks to your work in programs like the ones here in Santa Fe, we know that the Violence Against Women Act is having a real impact on domestic abuse. According to a recent study from 1993 to 1998, violence against women by an intimate partner fell by 21 percent. In the years 1996, '97 and '98, intimate partners committed fewer murders than at any other time since 1976, when there were far fewer people in this country.
So while we have made strides in our war against domestic violence, you only have to look around to know we've still got miles to go. We cannot turn our backs on the millions of women and children trapped in the cycle of domestic violence. We can't allow them to face a nightmare alone.
Let me say to you, this really shouldn't be a partisan issue. When Congress first passed the Violence Against Women Act, we had strong support from Republicans, as well as Democrats. This summer, in a bipartisan effort, both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees approved extending and reauthorizing and approving the Violence Against Women Act -- both Republicans and Democrats.
Why is this not law now? The committees have approved it. We have more than enough votes in both houses to pass it. Because this issue, for reasons I cannot understand, has been used as a political football in Washington. All the congressional leadership has to do is to put it up for a vote and it will fly through.
And so again I implore the leadership of Congress not to play games with the safety and future of women and children. (Applause.)
I ask all of you and those who will hear this message all across America tonight: contact your senators and your representatives and tell them to ask the majority leadership in Congress simply to schedule this for a vote. This is not rocket science. There is no complication here. Everybody knows what this law is. Everybody knows what it will do. Everybody knows what it has done. Yes, we're close to an election and, yes, there are a lot of things that various people want to get done in Congress between now and the end of the session when they go home for the election. Nobody wants to get anything any more done than I do, but it is wrong to delay this one more hour. Schedule the bill for a vote. (Applause.)
I have spent a lot of time in the last eight years trying to make peace around the world, trying to get people from Northern Ireland, to the Middle East, to the Balkans, to the African tribal conflicts, to lay down their ancient hatreds and stop dehumanizing people who are different from them. I spent a good deal of time trying to make peace within our borders, trying to get people to give up old hatreds of those who are different than them because they're of a different race or religion, or because they're gay, to give up all that.
But it is very hard for us to make peace around the world, or even around the land, unless we are first committed to making peace within our homes. (Applause.) And I think we should stay at this until the day when we are truly shocked if we hear a little boy or a girl say something at school about witnessing a violent incident in their home, when it is so rare, people gasp in astonishment.
We're a long way from there. But we owe it to our kids and all the women and children who have already been injured, to keep at it, until we reach that day.
Thank you very, very much, and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 2:48 P.M. MDT