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The President's Radio Address

October 14, 1995

Good morning. In recent weeks, all of us have had reason to focus on two of the biggest problems facing our country: the problem of continuing racial divisions and the problem of violence in our homes, violence against women and children.

Today, I want to talk to you about that violence in our homes. It is prevalent, unforgivable, and sometimes deadly. In the latest statistics from the Justice Department, we find that close to a third of all women murdered in this country were killed by their husbands, former husbands, or boyfriends.

For too long, domestic violence has been swept under the rug, treated as a private family matter that was nobody's business but those involved. Fortunately, that's changing. In recent years, a huge public outcry against domestic violence has been rising all across the Nation. In our churches, schools, and throughout communities, we've begun to bring this problem out in the open and deal with it. Now everyone knows it is cowardly, destructive of families, immoral, and criminal to abuse the women in our families.

Just last week at the White House, I met with a group of women who are survivors of domestic abuse. One woman told me of being battered and terrorized for more than 20 years, all the while blaming herself for the brutality she endured. It wasn't until her husband attacked her son that she got up the courage to leave the marriage and to seek help.

It's important to remember that when children witness or are victimized by violence in the home, they often later grow up to abuse their own families. So it can become a vicious cycle, as many abusers were once those abused themselves.

The good news is we can do something about this. The same day I met with the women survivors, I also met a remarkable Nashville police sergeant named Mark Wynn, a young man who himself grew up in a home where his father abused his mother and the children. But that experience motivated him to become a police officer and to dedicate his life to preventing domestic violence. For the past 10 years, he's been educating police nationwide about the seriousness of this problem and what to do about it. And he spearheaded the creation of a special domestic violence unit in the Nashville Police Department that has helped to reduce domestic murders by 70 percent in the last 6 months alone.

One year ago, we made a major commitment in Washington to ensuring the securities of our families with the bipartisan passage of my anticrime bill. That law banned assault weapons from our streets and our schools, imposed tougher penalties for repeat offenders, including the "three strikes and you're out" law. It provided resources for community-based prevention programs to give our children something to say yes to. And it put 100,000 more police officers behind our efforts at effective community policing. That's an increase of about 20 percent in the number of police who are protecting our citizens. In just a year, 25,000 of these new officers are already out there working to help make your life safer. And I've put aside $20 million to train our police to effectively deal with the problems of domestic violence.

The crime bill also included the landmark Violence Against Women Act. For the first time in our history, the Federal Government is now a full partner in the effort to stop domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act combines tough new sanctions against abusers with assistance to police, to prosecutors, and to shelters in the fight against domestic violence.

Just last week, we awarded grants to organizations in 16 different States to assist in their efforts to stop the violence and support the victims. And soon we'll establish an 800 number where women facing abuse can get assistance, counseling, and shelter.

Yet at the very moment our Nation has been focused on the abuse against women by their husbands—or former husbands or boyfriends— the House of Representatives has voted to cut $50 million from our efforts to protect battered women and their children, to preserve families, and to punish these crimes. I'm happy that the Senate agreed with me to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act, and I certainly hope the House will reconsider its decision.

Violence against women within our families will not go away unless we all take responsibility for ending it. So let me close today by speaking directly to the men of America, not just as President or a father or a husband but also as a son who has seen domestic violence firsthand.

We all know how much we owe to the sacrifices of the women who are our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters. I was fortunate enough to be raised by a loving mother who taught me right from wrong and made me believe I could accomplish anything I was willing to work hard for. Hillary and I were blessed to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary just this week. And of course, our daughter Chelsea is the great joy of our lives.

I know that all of us support stronger law enforcement efforts to deal with violence against all of the mothers, all of the wives, all of the daughters in America. But the real solution to this problem starts with us, with our personal responsibility and a simple pledge that we will never, never lift a hand against a woman for as long as we live and that we will teach our children that violence is never the answer. Then we can do all we can to end violence in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in everyone else's homes and neighborhoods throughout our beloved country.

Thank you for listening.

NOTE: The address was recorded at 1:48 p.m. on October 13 in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on October 14.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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