Murray to domestic violence survivors and advocates: “When we join together, when we don’t give up, when we stay united, we can make real change”
This week U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at the Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County’s Hope Within Luncheon. In her remarks, Murray highlighted the progress in recent years to provide women and families affected by domestic violence with stronger support and protections, including the passage and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Murray outlined further steps to prevent tragedies and support survivors seeking help including urging action against gun violence, which is an enormous threat to women in abusive relationships, and addressing domestic violence on campus as Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
Murray announced that next week she will be reintroducing the Survivors’ Security and Finance Empowerment (SAFE) Act to ensure survivors of domestic violence aren’t trapped in abusive relationships for financial reasons, can seek protections at work without fear of punishment, and helps raise awareness of domestic violence.
Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:
“Vicci, thank you so much for your kind introduction, and for all you do for women and families in our state. And thank you all for being here. It’s an honor to join you.
“It is truly inspiring to see so many people, especially the incredible recipients of the Community Partner Awards, standing up and uniting against domestic violence in our communities.
“I want to give special thanks to Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. Each year, Domestic Violence Services takes 5,500 calls, provides emergency shelter to more than 300 women and children, offers legal advocacy to more than 3,200 people, and so much more.
“To me, this shows what a difference it can make when a group of people – especially women come together and say, as you all do every day, that everyone deserves to be safe.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been focused on this goal as well. And while there’s no question that the work continues – we should also take a moment to acknowledge that we have come a long way.
“When I was elected to the United States Senate in 1993, domestic violence was widely seen as just a family problem, something friends and neighbors – and the government – should stay out of.
“So it wasn’t talked about publicly, and that made it even harder for women to seek help.
“But I – and many of my colleagues in the Senate – had heard too many stories about what domestic violence, and a culture of simply staying out of it, meant for women and families.
“We heard from women who struggled with things we all take for granted, like going to the grocery store or picking the kids up from school. Women who didn’t know where they would sleep at night, or who stayed in abusive relationships so their children would have health care.
“People like all of you, and organizations like Domestic Violence Services had, of course, heard too many of those stories as well.
“So we worked together to draft and pass the Violence Against Women Act – which put in place a national, comprehensive strategy to get survivors support and prosecute abusers.
“For the first time, domestic violence was recognized as a crime against a community and as a public health epidemic.
“VAWA also started a national dialogue about all the barriers that domestic violence creates for women – not just in terms of physical safety, but economic independence, fairness and protection in the workplace, and more.
“Thanks to that national dialogue and the work that so many women and advocates did – we were able to push for more progress, including passing the Affordable Care Act, which said loud and clear that domestic violence is not a pre-existing condition, and offered women and families critical support like domestic violence screening and counseling at no cost.
“Later, it ensured that women and their families can get coverage without filing jointly with an abuser.
“Last Congress, we stood together to say that a VAWA reauthorization that didn’t include tribal women, college students, and LGBT women was a complete nonstarter.
“I’m sure many of you remember how hard some elected officials in Congress fought against the Senate bill that expanded VAWA protections – and how hard women across the country fought back. By sharing their stories in Congress, by refusing to accept the status quo, and by standing united.
“Deborah Parker, then Vice-Chairman of the Tulalip Tribe, was one of those women. She heard we were working to reauthorize VAWA with tribal jurisdiction, and that we needed help getting some Senators to understand just how important this protection was.
“She sat down with me to tell me her story of abuse at a frighteningly young age, by an abuser who went free. Her story was filled with pain, but also resilience. And after our meeting, Deborah was courageous enough that she made clear she wanted others to hear that story too.
“Soon, she was on national cable outlets, in the Seattle Times, and in newspapers across the country.
“Believe me, those who opposed our VAWA bill noticed – and eventually, they couldn’t oppose it any longer.
“Deborah and the many women across the country who, like her, made their voices heard – made all the difference. They are the reason I am confident we can continue making progress. And we absolutely need to – because as everyone here today knows – there is much more to be done.
“According to the CDC, one in four women and one in seven men have been the victim of severe violence by an intimate partner. And one in six women have been stalked in their lifetime.
“I know you all are working hard to tackle these challenges – and I want to let you know what I’m doing in Congress to support your work and make sure women’s voices continue to be heard.
“Last week, Senate Democrats came together to once again urge action against the gun violence that continues to ravage communities across the country.
“Gun violence is, as you all know, an enormous threat to women in abusive relationships.
“In fact, women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries.
“There is no reason why someone with a court order for domestic violence should be able to purchase a firearm – and I strongly support legislation that would take that possibility off the table.
“Campus sexual assault is an issue that is getting much-needed attention in Congress. And as we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and address campus sexual assault, I am pushing to make sure that domestic violence on campus gets addressed, too – because it is just as common.
“We also can’t forget that economic independence is one of the best predictors of whether a victim will be able to stay away from her abuser. But domestic violence makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for victims to stay employed and stay safe at work.
“I remember very clearly the horror we all felt when a woman employed at the University of Washington was killed by her former partner at her office, even after she filed a restraining order and asked her friends and coworkers to look out for him.
“We can and must do more to prevent these tragedies and support survivors in seeking help.
“That is why next week, I am reintroducing the Survivors’ Security and Finance Empowerment Act, which would take critical steps to ensure that survivors aren’t trapped in abusive relationships for financial reasons, and can seek protections at work without fear of punishment.
“Right now, many women who have had to leave jobs due to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault can’t get unemployment insurance – and this bill would change that.
“The SAFE Act would allow survivors who need services like medical attention and legal assistance to take time off from work, including five days of paid leave.
“I know that organizations including the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence are doing great work to push for paid sick days for survivors here in Washington state, and I’m proud to be bringing that effort to the other Washington.
“The SAFE Act would also protect survivors from being fired because of harassment by an abuser or because they requested protections at work to stay safe.
“Finally – we’ve come a long way toward a culture in which survivors, and their friends and family, can speak up about domestic violence. But we can’t let up now.
“We have to continue raising awareness and ensuring that our country recognizes domestic violence as the ongoing public health challenge that it is.
“That’s why, as part of reintroducing the SAFE Act, I’m proposing a national awareness campaign, with the goal of encouraging prevention and support around domestic violence.
“Now, there is much more we need to do in addition to the efforts I’ve just discussed.
“But any one of these alone, from fighting gun violence to expanding unemployment insurance, could change and save the lives of domestic violence victims across the country. And I’m going to keep fighting for them.
“We’ve come a long way, we’ve got so much more to do, and it won’t be easy – but I’m confident we can get there together.
“You know, when I introduce new legislation, I’m often asked why I think I can get that bill signed into law. Now – that’s a fair question given how Congress works – or too often doesn’t – these days.
“But I don’t mind being asked, because I what I often say in response is—remember the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.
“We heard time and time again that it wasn’t going anywhere, that the changes we wanted to see, to help more women, simply weren’t an option, that we should be willing to negotiate about live-saving protections for women – or just give up.
“But we didn’t—because domestic violence survivors and advocates didn’t.
“Instead they made their voices heard and made it absolutely clear that they wouldn’t accept the status quo – and it worked. And that’s exactly what we all need to keep doing.
“I want to close by noting something that really struck me about Domestic Violence Services’ history.
“Domestic Violence Services started in 1976, when just a few women decided to step up, take action, and provide support to domestic violence victims out of their own homes.
“Today – as I said at the beginning of my remarks – Domestic Violence Services supports thousands of women and their families each year across Snohomish County.
“Just like those women, when we join together, when we don’t give up, when we stay united, we can make real change. I’m going to keep fighting for women and families back in the other Washington—and I know you all will too.
“Thank you so much, again, for everything you are doing – and let’s keep it up.”