THE BLOG
10/17/2014 01:05 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2014

No Tolerance for Domestic Violence

In September, we got insight into the depravity of domestic violence as we watched the video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancé unconscious and dragging her motionless body out of that elevator. We cringed at the police report detailing the phone call made by U.S. District Judge Fuller's wife in which she cried, "He's beating on me. Please help me." The police arrived at the hotel room moments later to find her in tears with visible lacerations on her face. Unfortunately, incidents like these occur in our communities each and every day, and sadly there is rarely video footage or police reports that detail the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that victims of domestic violence and their children endure. We should be no less appalled and disgusted about these incidents that never make the evening news.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it's important that we realize that the faces of domestic violence victims are all around us -- it may be a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a co-worker, or the clerk at your local grocery store. These victims may cover their bruises with long sleeves or their emotional scars with forced smiles because they're embarrassed or afraid to come forward. They may have no hope for breaking the cycle and escaping their abuser. The responsibility of raising awareness about domestic violence falls on our shoulders. It is only with our encouragement that victims will have the strength to come out of the shadows and seek help. As a community we must be ready and willing to help. The crisis of domestic violence knows no race, social boundaries, class distinction or age. It affects individuals in every community and its stain on victims and their children is so deep that its consequences cross generations.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States each minute. This equates to more than 10 million men and women annually. Combined, these victims lose a total of 8 million days of paid work annually and the violence inflicted on them costs $8.3 billion per year. Nationally, four women are murdered each day by their abusers. We have failed these victims and their families. We can and must do more. We must come together to address the societal factors that tolerate and perpetuate the continuation of domestic violence and eradicate the system that allows perpetrators to hide behind the silence they depend upon.

On September 10, I joined my constituents in calling for the resignation of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in light of his recent arrest for battery following a domestic dispute with his wife in an Atlanta hotel room. My call was shortly followed by a chorus of calls from the entire Alabama Congressional delegation, including our two Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

In a recent interview, Judge Fuller and his attorney dismissed our calls as responses to "public pressure and public passions that a federal judge doesn't have to respond to." If Judge Fuller believes that public passions fueled by the domestic violence epidemic aren't worthy of his response, then he never belonged on the federal bench. Domestic violence is a severe crime, worthy of the attention of every public official. In the same interview, his attorney went on to make the following claim: "It got caught up in the Ray Rice and NFL scandals, and it's gotten lumped into a category of domestic violence that I don't think it belongs in." Judge Fuller and his attorney are gravely mistaken. Any act of domestic violence is reprehensible and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Judge Fuller's high-profile position does not shield his victim from the emotional and physical violence he inflicts upon her and any legal immunity he is granted is a violation of justice. There is no treatment or counseling program that can resurrect what Judge Fuller has compromised as one who sits in the judgment of others.

Congress is the only body that can remove Judge Fuller from the bench should he not resign. My statement released on September 16 expounded upon my initial call for his resignation. In that statement, I affirmed that I would not hesitate to initiate impeachment proceedings if warranted. Today, I maintain that position. I cannot battle violence against women while turning a blind eye to Judge Fuller. Should he not resign prior to Congress' return to Washington on November 12, I will institute impeachment proceedings. This process will be long, and it will be daunting. Even more daunting, however, is the crisis of domestic violence. Even more embarrassing is our society's silence about this preventable epidemic. To all the men and women who are victims of domestic violence, I send a message of love, encouragement, and hope. Together we can make a difference and break the silence.