Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Ginger [Baran Lyons], and good morning, everyone! It is wonderful to be with you in Washington, D.C., the ancestral and traditional homeland of the Nacotchtank or Anacostan and Piscataway peoples.
I am proud to welcome you to the Department of Justice 2023 Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month Observance Event. This is OVW’s first in-person awareness month event in the Great Hall in many years, and it is worthy of that distinction: we will hear from Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and from two organizations doing remarkable work: Jewish Women International and MCSR.
Since the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, we have made strides in reducing intimate partner violence. But so many young people still experience physical and emotional abuse, sexual violence and stalking at the hands of current or former dating partners. We have more work to do. Today, we will hear directly from people who are at the forefront of that work: youth experts actively working in violence prevention.
It is critically important that you are here together to bring your advocacy and dedication. As Ginger noted, you are usually way ahead of us, and we are following your lead.
When I was 16 and sleeping on the couch of a domestic violence shelter, I really could not have imagined that one day I’d be running the Office on Violence Against Women. But when I see these awesome young advocates at work, I absolutely picture them running OVW – and the world. OVW has seen firsthand the impact that student-led efforts have on violence prevention efforts, promoting how to take a stand, how to intervene, and how to call out harmful behaviors.
In addition to the youth experts in the room, we have many young people joining us on the livestream. I hope all of you recognize that what you have to say is vital in bringing about change in the way that your peers – as well as adults and future generations – understand and respond to dating violence.
First of all, as adults, we are dying to know what you really think. I know it does not always feel that way, but I swear we desperately do. And we need your help because us adults trying to do prevention and connect with young people is always going to miss the mark. Do you want to see us try to make a TikTok about healthy relationships? I didn’t think so.
Your voice and your actions are powerful. You lift up survivors so that they are seen and heard. You engage with your communities and stop dating violence before it even happens.
And one thing I see this generation do really well, is you recognize and acknowledge the nuances, the barriers, the opportunities, the unique lived experiences that will allow you to create deep and lasting systemic change.
To those of you here today who are turning your pain into action, please believe me when I say that you are so valued for who you are. You are enough, even when you don’t feel that way. You are so brave, and you are changing the world.
As President Biden said in his Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month proclamation, “by recognizing the signs of dating and domestic violence, setting positive examples of healthy relationships that lift up instead of tear down, and making clear that abuses of power are never acceptable, we can build a culture where respect is the norm, dignity is the rule, and safety is the expectation — both online and offline.” I want to thank JWI and MCSR for ensuring we move, ever forward, toward that vision and for contributing to today’s program.
Now, it is my honor to introduce Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. She is a champion for civil rights, for survivors, and for improving access to justice for all. Please join me in giving her a warm welcome.