I was molested as a child. There was no ominous stranger or dark alley. This abuse was perpetrated by someone I knew and by someone who knew me -- a family friend. Sadly, these events of my youth would only be the beginning of a lifetime of experiences with abuse and violence.
When I was in high school -- an ambitious young woman, very focused on my education -- a young man joked with his friends and made a bet that he could "bed the egghead." He took me out on what I thought was an innocent date with the boy that I liked, and when he got me alone, he forced himself on me. It was my 18th birthday. I don't even think he thought it was wrong. He and his friends thought it was a rite of passage, nothing big. But it altered the course of my life.
These memories hold much pain and haunted me through many phases of my life. But it is partly through these experiences that I found my calling -- to be an advocate for the many nameless, faceless and voiceless women and children who endure this abuse everyday throughout this country.
No mother, no sister, no child should ever have to suffer the physical, psychological and emotional abuse that I and so many others were forced to endure. Yet, each day there are hundreds that do. In fact, nearly one in five women in the United States has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
As legislators and as Members of Congress, it is our obligation to speak up for those who are being ignored in our society. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) does just that.
I spoke recently about what this Act would have done for me, had it been enacted before the time of my assault. This legislation, originally passed in 1994, strengthens the ability of the Federal Government, States, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The new VAWA legislation has provisions that include protection and resources for all women, including undocumented immigrants, same-sex couples and those on tribal lands. Moreover, it would create a community that promotes education on how to prevent domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a cancer that has infected our society, crossing all ethnic, socioeconomic and party lines. Protecting those victimized by domestic violence should never be a partisan issue. Yet as with many other pieces of common-sense legislation, this Congress has pushed this bill into partisan corners. Recently, when the Violence Against Women Act was brought to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, every single Senate Republican on that Committee voted "no." And to add insult to injury, these Senators justified their votes based on purely ideological objections that should be set aside if we are truly serious and committed to aiding victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Thankfully, President Obama has recently taken action on this issue, directing federal agencies to develop policies for addressing domestic violence in the federal workforce. These policies will build on ongoing efforts of federal agencies to improve workplace safety, and outline steps employers can take to provide support and assistance to employees whose lives are affected by domestic violence.
It is time we stop playing partisan politics with the Violence Against Women Act. This is real life, with real women and real consequences. Until this Congress decides to take the safety of women, children and families seriously, our country will continue to spiral through a vicious circle of denial that will sadly only lead to more violence and abuse.
Women are waiting for this Congress to come together to pass this important legislation. Until that time, I along with my Democratic colleagues will continue to fight the good fight so that the Gwen Moores of this world no longer have to live in fear.
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