Welcome Remarks

Diane M. Stuart
Office on Violence Against Women

October 29, 2002

“Preventing Violence Against Women: A Symposium on Domestic Violence”

Good afternoon. I am delighted to welcome all of you to this Symposium on Domestic Violence. I want to especially thank:

  • Attorney General John Ashcroft;
  • Deputy Secretary Claude Allen;
  • Assistant Attorney General Deborah Daniels;
  • The newly appointed members of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women; and
  • All of our invited guests.

I am so grateful to Attorney General Ashcroft for holding this Symposium, a testament to his unwavering commitment to ending violence against women.

I see many familiar faces—the faces of individuals whose work in this area has had an enormous impact on how we approach domestic violence in this country. It is a great privilege to be among you here today. Many of you I have known for years, long before I came to Washington. I know of your commitment. I know of your accomplishments. I know of your passion. And I thank you for what you have done and all that you will do to keep women safe and free from violence.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the life and work of Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila. The Wellstone’s were true champions for victims of domestic violence. Their passion and conviction for improving women’s lives was extraordinary. I served with Sheila on the former Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, of which she was a tireless and enthusiastic member. The Wellstone’s work greatly contributed to the tremendous strides that are being made to improve the nation’s response to protecting women from violence. We considered postponing this event, but decided instead to view it as a tribute to their work on behalf of domestic violence victims everywhere.

Let us all observe a moment of silence in memory of Paul and Sheila Wellstone.

On October 1, the President designated October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this month, many organizations have taken the opportunity to hold special events, release new publications, and start new programs, all for the purpose of raising consciousness about the reality of domestic violence. Sadly, for many women, the month of October, 2002, marked the end of their lives and the beginning of the pain and agony for those they left behind. For example:

In Spanish Fork, Utah, Brenda Lee Lundell was allegedly beaten to death by her live-in boyfriend, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that her body was discovered by her 21-year-old son who went to check on her. He reportedly found her body, with massive injuries to her head, shoved underneath the bed.

In Bel-Nor, Missouri, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, a man was accused by police of killing his wife, Subrenia Smith, and arranging for it to appear that she was murdered during a burglary. Investigators told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Subrenia had packed a suitcase and was planning to leave her husband after a year of trouble in the marriage.

In Foster City, California, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Eddie Rapoza drove his wife, Raye Lynn Rapoza, who was seven months pregnant, and their 4-year-old daughter, Tehani, across 50 feet of ice plant and plunged over a 150-foot cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Raye Lynn and Tehani were killed. Further, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Eddie Rapoza, who survived, had a history of domestic violence in both Hawaii and California.

In Council Bluffs, Nebraska, as reported in the Omaha World-Herald, 20-year-old Amber Parks was allegedly shot and killed by her 17-year-old boyfriend. According to the Omaha World-Herald, neighbors said they listened for more than an hour to yelling and screaming coming from Parks' apartment. The fighting stopped when they heard a gunshot. A Council Bluffs police officer told the Omaha World-Herald that Amber's 2-year old child was sleeping in the other bedroom at the time of the shooting.

Ladies and gentlemen, if current rates hold true, hundreds more women will die at the hands of their partner by the end of the year. I think about how the Washington area was gripped in fear for weeks while law enforcement officials were tracking down the elusive sniper. Thankfully, these criminals were caught and we can now all breathe a little easier. But for many victims of domestic violence, they live in fear every single day of their lives. They know what constant terror feels like.

Which is why the theme for this symposium is “Preventing Violence Against Women.” It sounds simple enough, but the key message here is that domestic violence can be prevented. Around the country there is innovative and exciting work taking place to help reduce domestic violence. Let me share a couple of examples with you:

In Florida, a state-wide initiative resulted in the establishment of 16 local fatality review teams. Evaluations indicated that the domestic violence fatality review process revitalized coordinated community responses in the state and provided a new focus for interagency work and communication. Despite the differences that emerge in every case, regular reports issued by the teams have revealed disturbing trends: 62 percent of the victims had been harassed or threatened in their place of work; in 50 percent of the cases there was some awareness of prior death threats; and in many of these cases, friends or neighbors were aware of threats, but were reluctant to intervene.

In Oklahoma, the Apache Tribe’s "Violence Free Living Program" provides emergency services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in an eight county service area which includes an American Indian population of over 14,000. Support groups are provided to women on a weekly basis in the Apache language. The Apache Tribe has also developed tribal codes addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the local prosecutors, and the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. With funding from the Office on Violence Against Women and with the University of Oklahoma Law School as a partner, the Apache Tribe recently began a program to provide free legal representation to victims of violence in divorce, child custody, and other civil cases.

You can see that the common thread among these programs is a clear commitment to a coordinated community response to domestic violence, the centerpiece of the Violence Against Women Act. By establishing strong, effective partnerships and building the capacity for communities to respond, there is every reason to believe that safety and security can be restored to our homes and neighborhoods.

We must not let the energy, the spirit, and the dedication that I have witnessed around this nation come to an end. We must keep the momentum strong. Too many women are suffering. Too many children are learning that violence is an acceptable way to deal with conflict. It is our responsibility to make every month Domestic Violence Awareness Month until the day that every man, woman, and child can live without fear in their homes, free from violence. With your help, that day will come.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you a gentleman who makes me feel proud to work at the Department of Justice. I will never forget the first time I met Attorney General John Ashcroft. It was in July of 2001 and I was one of three individuals meeting with him to discuss the priorities of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. What struck me most during that meeting was his deep and obvious commitment to ending violence against women. He spoke very candidly about his desire to see a change in attitudes and perceptions surrounding domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, especially on the part of men. I was impressed then and am even more impressed now with his willingness to confront the issue of violence against women and make it one of his top priorities of this Administration.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to introduce to you the Attorney General of the United States.

Introduction of Claude Allen
Deputy Secretary,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

I am pleased to introduce to you, Mr. Claude Allen, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Claude was confirmed by the Senate as the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services on May 26, 2001. As Deputy Secretary, Claude works closely with Secretary Tommy G. Thompson on all major policy and management issues, and he serves as the department's chief operating officer.

Prior to joining HHS, Claude was Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia, leading 13 agencies and15,000 employees. Before joining the Gilmore administration, he was Counsel to the Attorney General, and later, Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Litigation Division in the Office of the Attorney General, Virginia. Before joining the Office of the Attorney General, Claude practiced law in Washington, D.C., specializing in government contracts, litigation, and legislative affairs.

He holds both a Juris Doctorate and a Masters of Law in International and Comparative Law from Duke University Law School. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning degrees in Political Science and Linguistics.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Claude Allen.