Document 15B: Eleanor Smeal, "Testimony by Eleanor Smeal, President Fund for the Feminist Majority Before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Right," 16 November 1993, Senate Hearing 103-51, 16 November 1993, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, Serial No. 51.


NOVEMBER 16, 1993

       On behalf of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, I wish to speak in favor of the Violence Against Women Act. The Feminist Majority has worked nationally to end violence against women for over five years. The Feminist Majority has educated the public and law enforcement officials on the relationship between gender representation in the police force and police brutality and response to domestic violence and other violent crimes toward women. Through the efforts of our Los Angeles office and the feminist community, the Los Angeles City Council has passed a resolution directing the Los Angeles Police Department to achieve the goal of 44% women in the police department corresponding with the percentage of women in the workforce.

       The Violence Against Women Act provides important civil action remedies for women who have been survivors of gender-based violence and crucial funding for a variety of programs to curb violence against women.

       The civil rights provision in this bill is a critical recognition that women--as a class of persons who have been historically discriminated against and have been treated as inferior throughout time--are at risk of violence because they are women. This bill will not open the floodgates to litigation. However, by giving women the ability to bring gender-hate cases to federal court, the bill recognizes that gender-based violence exists and that perpetrators of this violence should face federal civil as well as criminal penalties.

       Violent crimes against women are of an epidemic proportion. We will not recite all of the well-known and well-documented statistics which already have been presented to this subcommittee by the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. But I do want to share with you the results of a study that the Feminsit Majority has just complete of 911 domestic violence calls. Incidents of domestic violence against women are typically the number one reason that 911 is called. Our study found that New York City received 158,094 domestic violence calls to 911 in 1991. Houston, Texas reported an average of 168,000 domestic violence calls annually. Columbus, Ohio received 65,000 domestic violence calls in 1992. These figures are tip of the iceberg -- many municipalities do not even keep count of domestic violence calls. The October 1992 Senate Judiciary Committee Report, Violence Against Women: A Week in the Life of America, showed that more than 1.1 million women filed police reports because of domestic violence annually. According to most experts, as many as 3 million violent domestic crimes go unreported every year.

       The Violence Against Women Act is legislation that is desperately needed to help curb the violence that forces women to live in constant fear of their physical well-being and indeed their lives. Title III of the Act is necessary both to officially acknowledge that crimes against women because they are women are occurring and to provide women federal civil remedies to compensate in part for the inefficient, ineffective, and often unsympathetic police reponse at state and local levels. I am submitting for the Subcommittee our Gender Balance In The Police Force fact sheet which document the frequent lack of response of local police forces to domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and other violent crimes against women.

       We urge the immediate passage of the Violence Against Women Act, including the Civil Rights Provision of Title III.


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