Actor Angelina Jolie welled up while addressing the US Congress on Wednesday as she urged members to pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorisation Act.
A bipartisan group of US senators introduced a proposal on Wednesday to reauthorise the 1990s-era law that extends protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. It had lapsed in 2019 because of Republican opposition. The bill to renew the Act was announced by Senator Dick Durbin. He was joined by Democratic and Republican colleagues, domestic violence survivors and Jolie.
“Standing here at the centre of our nation’s power, I can think only of everyone who’s been made to feel powerless by their abusers, by a system that failed to protect them,” the actor said. “Parents whose children have been murdered by an abusive partner, women who suffer domestic violence yet are not believed, children who have suffered life-altering trauma and post-traumatic stress at the hands of people closest to them.”
She called upon the US senators to pass the Act, and said: “I repeat this is one of the most important votes you will cast this year in the Senate.”
“When there is silence from a Congress too busy to renew the Violence Against Women Act for a decade, it reinforces that sense of worthlessness. You think, ‘I guess my abuser’s right, I guess I’m not worth very much’,” she said.
She continued: “As survivors of abuse know all too well, victims of our failed systems are not allowed to be angry. You’re supposed to be calm, patient and ask nicely. But you try staying calm when it’s as if someone is holding your head underwater. Try to stay calm when you’re witnessing someone you love being harmed.”
“Try to stay calm if, after you were strangled and you find the courage to come forward, you discover that your chances of proving the abuse are now gone because no one took into account the different ways bruising presents in black or brown skin and they failed to check properly for signs of injury,” the actor said.
Jolie also acknowledged the parents who lost their children to domestic violence. Struggling to hold back her tears, she added: “Most of all, I want to acknowledge ... the children who are terrified and suffering at this moment. And the many people for whom this legislation comes too late.”
“...The women who have suffered through the system with little or no support who still carry the pain and trauma of their abuse, the young adults who have survived abuse and emerged stronger, not because of the child protective system, but despite it, and the women and children who have died who could have been saved,” she added.
The law, first introduced in the Senate in 1990 by President Joe Biden when he was a senator from Delaware, aims to reduce domestic and sexual violence and improve the response to it through a variety of grant programs. A subsequent version was eventually included in a sweeping crime bill that then-President Bill Clinton signed into law four years later. Congress has reauthorised the Violence Against Women Act three times since.
Additional reporting by agencies
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