Document 15A: Eleanor Smeal, "Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President, Fund for The Feminist Majority," 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.
The Feminist Majority has worked nationally to end violence against women since 1993. Like NOW LDEF, the Feminist Majority represented larger women's organizations who supported the VAWA. They believed that by giving women the ability to bring gender-hate cases to federal court, the bill recognized that perpetrators of gender-based violence should face federal charges. Eleanor Smeal represented the organization before the Senate and also submitted a prepared statement (see Document 15B).
STATEMENT OF ELEANOR SMEAL, PRESIDENT, FUND FOR
THE FEMINIST MAJORITY
Ms. SMEAL. I'm Ellie Smeal, and I'm speaking on behalf of the Fund for the Feminist Majority. We want to speak in favor of both the act and most particularly the civil rights provision.
For some 5 years, we have had a domestic violence project. I won't go through all the statistics that have been presented by the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, but we have been working particularly with bias in the police forces, and with domestic violence. Our work has shown that because of the underrepresentation of women in the police force, we have less response to domestic violence and violence against women than would be if we were more adequately represented.
In fact, the studies show repeatedly that there is pervasive bias against women by local law enforcement and State enforcement. In fact, one of the most important parts of this bill is that it provides a Federal civil remedy. Too frequently, the police force themselves are unsympathetic to a woman's charges. In fact, most recently, the studies that resulted as a result of the police brutality situation in Los Angeles show that in fact women themselves can become a target of police brutality. Not only do the police not respond sympathetically, but when they do respond, it can be extremely hostile.
So to me it's very, very important that this provides a right for women themselves to enter Federal court when there is no real rememdy being offered to them at the local level. The data is pervasive. It shows not just this police department but departments all over this country where there is massive discrimination and hostility toward women.
In addition, our study of 911 numbers shows the massive need for dealing with domestic violence. In major cities of this country, we're talking about domestic violence being the number one reason why you call a 911 number. Basically, we are looking at reports such as the Senate Judiciary report of October 1992, that shows that 1.1 million women a year file police reports, and we believe that is 25 percent of what is really out there, something like 3 million incidents occur.
So the need for dealing with domestic violence and all forms of sexual harassment and dealing with hatred toward women is overwhelming. The police themselves, because the bias permeates our society, are frequently people who have the bias themselves.
We believe that with what has happened in the past, the leaving out of gender, for example, in the hate crimes statistics laws, that this could help correct that error, and say to the country once and for all the hate against women in the form of violence is something our country will not tolerate. In fact, we sent out the wrong signal in the past by excluding women from other civil rights protections, and I think this is an opportunity to correct it.
I would like to submit to the committee our formal testimony, and also our study on the response at the local level by police on violence towards women.
Mrs. SCHROEDER. Without objection, and I thank both of you. I think you put it in a very important perspective as to why the civil rights addition is terribly important.
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