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Rep. Gwen Moore Recounts Own Rape and Sexual Assault

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Wednesday, one of her congressional colleagues personalized the issue on the House floor by recounting her own experiences with domestic violence.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., who joined Pelosi in introducing the legislation, said, “Violence against women is as American as apple pie.”

“Domestic violence has been a thread throughout my personal life -- up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who’s been raped.”

Aides close to the Democratic congresswoman say Moore was sexually molested by a family friend repeatedly as a child. Moore also says she was a victim of date rape later as a young woman, when her assailant stole her underwear to show off as a trophy to friends.

“This is what American women are facing,” Moore said. “This is not a partisan issue and it would be very, very devastating to women of all colors, creeds and sexual orientations for us not to address this.”

Pelosi underlined the “critical, life-saving support to victims of violence” that the legislation has provided over the last 18 years through funding for groups and services that help victims of domestic abuse.

“All Americans are entitled to feel safe in their workplace, in their homes, and walking on our streets,” Pelosi said. “Yet too many women continue to live in fear, and that is why we must reauthorize and strengthen and pass the Violence Against Women Act.”

Democrats failed a short time later Wednesday afternoon in a procedural stunt to attach reauthorization to a vote on the Republican budget blueprint.

Pelosi said that since the bill was first signed into law by President Clinton, the legislation “has strengthened communities” by reducing violence against women.

“This law has helped ensure that more victims report domestic violence to the police, that the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has been decreased by 53 percent, in that period of time,” she said. “Rape crisis centers have been able to keep their doors open [and] law enforcement and victims’ services providers are working together to better meet the needs of victims.”

Opponents of the bill object to provisions that make federal grants to domestic violence organizations subject to their ability to prove they do not discriminate against homosexual and transgender victims.  They complain that on Native American reservations, it shifts authority of tribal courts over domestic violence matters with non-tribal aggressors. They also object that it provides additional visas for battered undocumented women who agree to cooperate with law enforcement.

“Unfortunately violence is not limited to just Democrats or just Republicans or just blacks or just whites,” Moore, the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus, said. “It’s not limited to heterosexual relationships, but there are relationships of all kinds that are exposed to domestic violence.”

Currently, local tribal authorities say they struggle to prosecute domestic abuse cases of Native American women who are married to non-Native American men because they don’t have the force of law over non-tribe members.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, declined to comment directly on the Democrats’ proposal, but told reporters that there is bipartisan support for a reauthorization of the legislation, and House Republicans will move forward with their own version before current funding expires.

“The issues that were raised in the Senate did not deal with the underlying bill itself,” McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said. “You’re going to find that there is bipartisan support for the bill.”

The law was first reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005. Authorization expired Sept. 30 last year but money that was disbursed before the program expired has been used to cover the current fiscal year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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