Every March, as our nation pauses to observe Women’s History Month, Americans from all walks of life come together to reflect on the indelible contributions – and the many sacrifices – that women have made in advancing this nation, defining our history, and shaping our future. And we celebrate the courage, the strength, and the extraordinary resolve that animated pioneers like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ada Kepley – the first American woman to graduate from law school – and even my late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, who in 1963 became the first African-American woman to enroll at the University of Alabama.
Their stories inspire us. Their examples challenge us to keep moving this country closer to its highest ideals. And their work – of advancing the cause of equality, opportunity, and justice – is now ours to carry forward.
That’s why it’s a top priority for my colleagues and me – at every level of the Department of Justice – to fight against discrimination, to eliminate inequities, and to tear down the barriers to success that too many women and girls continue to face even today.
Last March, I joined Vice President Joe Biden in announcing the first-ever Domestic Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative grant awards, which are enabling us to support innovative programs dedicated to predicting potentially lethal behavior, stopping the escalation of violence, and saving lives. The very next month, I unveiled an updated National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations – or, SAFE Protocol – to increase the quality of victim services and share best practices.
Also last year, we secured the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act which expanded the federal government’s ability to combat intimate partner violence, provided important new safeguards for LGBT individuals, and closed a jurisdiction gap that had long compromised the ability of American Indian and Alaska Native women to seek the justice they deserve. Our Civil Rights Division is fighting for equal employment opportunities for women – and to ensure safer and more inclusive schools and workplaces. The Department is leading by example in this regard, having become the first major federal agency to respond to President Obama’s call for a workplace policy to prevent domestic violence and address its effects on our workforce. And in 2013 alone, the Division obtained more than $875,000 in relief and damages for victims of workplace sexual discrimination.
From the Office on Violence Against Women to the Office of Justice Programs; from the Office of Tribal Justice to each of our 93 U.S. Attorneys’ offices – all Americans can be proud of what the Justice Department and its allies have accomplished in recent years. And with the continued leadership of President Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls, I’m confident that we can, and will, keep moving forward together. And we will never stop advancing the ideals, and honoring the extraordinary history, that we commemorate this month.
Eric H. Holder, Jr. is the Attorney General for the Department of Justice.