Angelina Jolie has delivered a powerful speech to U.S. Senators in Washington, D.C. advocating for women and children experiencing violence.
The Hollywood star and humanitarian, who attended the conference at the Capitol with daughter Zahara, spoke alongside a bipartisan group of Senators who have reached agreement on legislation which would reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act.
What is that exactly?
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It’s a law that expired in 2019, which provided federal-level prosecution for various crimes perpetrated against women including domestic violence and sexual assault.
A bill reauthorising it all was passed in the House of Representatives last year and expanded to include further protections for Black, Brown, immigrant, LGBTQ+ and Native American women and it’s now in the hands of the Senate.
“The ugly truth is that violence in homes is normalised in our country,” Angelina, who has been working with lawmakers, said in her speech.
“Between 4 and 7 children die daily in America from child abuse and neglect and 800 children have been murdered by a separating parent since 2008. The idea of sovereignty of a family home is being used to abuse the members within it. But victims of abuse in this country deserve consideration and respect and attention of Congress as much, if not more, than any other crisis we face.”
Angelina acknowledged how survivors of abuse are never allowed to be angry, but instead urged to be “calm and patient” until change happens.
“But you try staying calm when it’s as if someone is holding your head under water and you’re drowning. Try to stay calm when you witness 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 way bruising presents on Black and Brown skin. And they failed to check properly for signs of injury.”
Angelina also addressed the parents of murdered children who have fought to change laws “to protect the next child” and the many people who have suffered abused and continue to work daily to ensure the Act’s re-authorisation “achieves certain basic protections that no survivor should have to ask for.”
She highlighted in particular the “funding for non-racially biased forensic evidence collection” and “the jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse and sex trafficking on tribal land.”
After reminding Senators “this is one of the most important votes you will cast this year,” Angelina tearfully acknowledge the children and women who have already lost their lives:
“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 this 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.”
(Feature Image Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)