The East LA Women’s Center presented Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) with its Mujeres de Paz (Women for Peace) Award for her efforts to help survivors of domestic violence.
Thank you very much for tonight’s recognition. It is truly humbling to receive this award from the East Los Angeles Women’s Center which is a pioneer organization and leader in addressing the violence that exists in far too many of our homes.
The history of The East Los Angeles Women’s Center is a wonderful example of how the courage and determination of women in our community can make a difference even in the face of adversity.
In the 70’s, when the first seeds were planted for what has blossomed into today’s East Los Angeles Women’s Center, there were few services and little public support for efforts to combat domestic violence because at the time, many in our society believed domestic abuse was a private family matter not to be discussed in public.
“She probably had it coming to her,” was not an uncommon statement.
Nor was it uncommon to hear it in the 80’s when, as a member of the state assembly, I introduced bills to counter state laws that often protected the abuser more than the victims of the abuse.
While we have made progress by building on the foundation of our early pioneers and through the hard work of organizations like the Women’s Center, the fact remains that as a nation we still have a long way to go to legally and socially address the safety and security of women trying to escape their abuser.
A perfect example of how difficult it is to pass domestic violence legislation is the SAFE Act which I first introduced 15 years ago and has yet to pass because of strong opposition.
The SAFE Act is based on credible research that found a woman’s inability to financially support herself is often a factor in her staying with or returning to her abuser.
Given that no woman should have to choose between physical safety and financial security for herself and family, the SAFE Act would enable victims of domestic violence to take time from work to attend to such things as going to court, finding a safe place to live or seeing a doctor without the fear of losing their job.
Given the need for such a law, I will be reintroducing the bill soon. Hopefully with your support, we will have a positive outcome.
It is true however that we cannot legislate away the crime of domestic violence.
As difficult as the fight is, the fact remains that the support and advocacy of each of you in this room has been and continues to be critical to promoting a legal and social system that gives women and their children a fighting chance to survive when leaving an abusive environment. And I commend you for that.
In closing, I extend my sincere congratulations to the other honorees.
And I salute the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, the staff and volunteers who every day help victims of domestic abuse become survivors by empowering them to change despair into hope, obstacles into opportunities of growth, AND denigration into the energy to fight for the life and respect they and their children so richly deserve.
They are the true Mujeres de Paz. Thank you again for tonight’s recognition.