Today marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. From its humble origins in 1981 as a Day of Unity, this month has become a time to celebrate survivors, congratulate advocates, empower victims, and mourn the deaths of those lost to domestic violence. Around the country, communities are coming together this month to hold vigils, public awareness programs, survivor speak outs and town hall meetings.
At the White House, we know that this month would not be possible without the lifelong dedication of those on the front lines. This month we honor the hotline workers who work the night shift to be there around the clock for victims in need. We pay tribute to the shelter workers who show that they care every day and the law enforcement officers who treat victims with dignity and respect when they knock on a door. We acknowledge the prosecutors who take on tough cases and the doctors who screen their patients for domestic violence. We appreciate the community-based organizations who reach people in their neighborhoods and the faith leaders who speak out about ending domestic violence. Most of all, we honor the women, men, and children who have survived violence.
Our commitment to survivors is reflected in the Obama Administration’s efforts to raise awareness and prevent domestic violence. Earlier this year, President Obama directed federal agencies to develop policies to assist victims of domestic violence in the federal workforce (read the Presidential memorandum). Through Vice President Biden’s 1 is 2 Many campaign, we released a public service announcement featuring professional athletes and other role models speaking out against dating violence (watch the PSA).
Through the Affordable Care Act, women in many health plans will have access to domestic violence screening and counseling as a preventative service without co-payments, deductibles or other cost-sharing. In an effort to save the lives of the three women a day who still die as a result of domestic violence, the Justice Department developed a new project to reduce domestic violence homicides through screening, linking victims with services and developing high-risk teams. Through these and other initiatives, we are doing our part to assist survivors and stop violence before it starts.
We have also called on Congress to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act, which was authored by then-Senator Biden and first passed Congress in 1994, has served as the backbone of the nation’s response to domestic violence. VAWA supports specialized law enforcement units, training for prosecutors, and community-based victim services as well as transitional housing, prevention programs, and services for children affected by violence. The accomplishments we acknowledge and celebrate every October would not be possible without VAWA, yet Congress has not finished its work on this critical legislation.
Today President Obama issued his fourth proclamation in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (read the President’s proclamation). The President said: “While government must do its part, all Americans can play a role in ending domestic violence.” As communities gather around the country to acknowledge this month, we at the White House are standing with you.