Remarks by the President at Domestic Violence Awareness Event
4:25 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you so much.
Let me just be clear. Biden’s boss is Dr. Jill Biden. (Laughter.) So let there be no confusion about that.
I want to begin, obviously, by recognizing my Vice President for the unbelievable leadership that he has shown for more than two decades on this issue -- fighting alongside all the advocates who are here today. (Applause.) Great work.
He started holding hearings on domestic violence back in 1990. He wrote and gathered the support to pass the Violence Against Women’s Act -- a law that has saved countless lives, transformed how we address these all-too-pervasive crimes. And as Vice President, he hasn’t let up. He is helping us to step up our efforts across all the relevant federal agencies. So nobody feels more passionately about this than Joe, and I am grateful to him for all of his leadership. We're really proud of him. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Valerie Jarrett, my senior advisor and chair of our Council on Women and Girls. Valerie has helped ensure that the issues that we’re talking about today -- the concerns of women and girls -- are addressed at the highest levels of our government.
I want to acknowledge Lynn Rosenthal, the first-ever advisor at the White House -- (applause.) So we're proud of Lynn. I guess you know her. (Laughter.) She’s been calling you up a little bit. But she’s doing great work helping to advise us on these issues.
I want to thank Judge Susan Carbon, the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice. (Applause.) We're proud of what we're doing here.
I want to thank my Secretary for Health and Human Services, Secretary Sebelius, who is helping to coordinate our efforts.
And finally, I want to thank everybody who is here today for the work that you’re doing to stop domestic violence and to help its survivors. You’ve got champions like Senator Frank Lautenberg and Congresswoman Donna Edwards who have done extraordinary work in Congress. You’ve got leaders like Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans. And I think you already heard about some of the interesting work that they’re doing down in that city.
There are so many organizations that are represented here today -- we are very proud of you and what you do. I'm thrilled to see Joe Torre, who’s here, who understands this issue personally and deeply, and for him to lend his name to this is extraordinarily important. And we hope that the Dodgers do better next year. (Laughter.) My White Sox aren't doing so hot, either. (Laughter.)
As you all know, domestic violence was for far too long seen as a lesser offense. As Valerie said, it was frequently treated like a private matter. Victims were often just sent home from the hospital without intervention; children were left to suffer in silence. And as a consequence, abuse could go on for years. In many cases, this violence would only end with the death of a woman or a child.
And we've come an incredibly long way since that time. We have changed laws. We’ve made progress in changing the way people think about domestic abuse. As Joe pointed out, we’ve reduced the incidence of domestic violence. And we’ve done so in no small part because of the advocacy of your organizations and the willingness of victims to tell their own stories, even when it’s difficult.
And if there’s one group that I want to thank, am grateful for, it’s people who are willing to tell their stories -- because it’s hard. It’s hard stuff. When Joe Torre stands up and talks about growing up in an abusive household, about being afraid to come home when he saw his dad’s car parked in the front of the house, and finding a refuge in baseball -- that connects in a way that no speech by a politician can connect.
As a consequence, he started Safe at Home, a foundation for children going through what he went through, and it’s helping kids all across the country.
We’re joined by Lori Stone and Ruth Glenn, both of whom were victims of years of violent abuse in their marriages. And they’re sharing their stories in the hope that nobody else has to experience the pain and fear that they lived with every day.
Those stories remind us of how cruel, how menacing domestic violence can be -- because it happens at home, the place where you should feel safe. Because the abuse comes at the hands of the people who are supposed to love you and trust you. Because escaping domestic violence is not only associated with a great deal of fear but also incredible financial and legal challenges that often leave victims of abuse feeling trapped.
That’s what we have to change. And I say that not only as a President, but as a son, as a husband, as the father of two daughters. Now, we’ve made a great deal of progress in recent years. But everybody in this room understands that our work is not yet finished. Not when there’s more we can do to help folks looking to restart their lives and achieve financial independence. Not when there’s more to do to ensure that the victims of abuse have access to legal protection. Not when children are trapped in abusive homes -- especially when we know the lingering damage and despair that this can cause in a child’s life. Not when one in every four women experiences domestic violence -- and one in six women are sexually assaulted -- at some point in their lives.
It’s not acceptable. And I know that Valerie and Joe spoke about some of our efforts in detail, but I just want to highlight a few key parts of what is a new, coordinated effort to protect victims and break the cycle of abuse.
We’re helping the victims of violence to overcome the financial barriers they often face getting back on their feet. And Lori’s experience serves as an example. Lori had not only -- had suffered abuse at the hands of her husband physically, he also destroyed their credit. And she had to spend her limited savings on legal representation to keep custody of her children.
So we’re going to start taking steps to connect survivors with jobs, to help them save, to make it easier for them to rebuild their credit, to make sure that no one has to choose between a violent home and no home at all. (Applause.)
Secretary Donovan at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is releasing new rules today to prevent the victims of domestic violence from being evicted or denied assisted housing because a crime was committed against them. That’s not right. And we’re going to put a stop to it. (Applause.)
We’re also doing more to help the victims of domestic violence access legal services and protections. So today, the Justice Department is releasing new tools and best practice to judges, to advocates, to law enforcement to help ensure that protective orders are issued and enforced. And the Vice President and the Justice Department are launching a new effort to help victims of domestic abuse find lawyers to represent them pro bono. You heard Joe talk about that. That's critical. That's important. (Applause.)
As the advocates in this room can attest, when a victim of abuse leaves a violent relationship it’s often a particularly vulnerable time. I know that’s when Ruth Glenn was viciously attacked by her husband. And there are many stories like this -- too many stories. We need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can for victims in this critical period -- to ensure that folks who are seeking help and protection get that help and get that protection. That’s our responsibility.
So these are just a few of the steps that we’re taking. But the bottom line is this: Nobody in America should live in fear because they are unsafe in their own home -- no adult, no child. And no one who is the victim of abuse should ever feel that they have no way to get out. We need to make sure every victim of domestic violence knows that they are not alone; that there are resources available to them in their moment of greatest need. And as a society, we need to ensure that if a victim of abuse reaches out for help, we are there to lend a hand.
This is not just the job of government. It’s a job for all of us. So I want to thank all of you for the work that you do in your respective communities. And I want you to know that this administration is going to stand with you each and every step of the way.
So congratulations on your great work. We've got more work to do. And I couldn't be prouder to be part of this effort. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
4:36 P.M. EDT