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July 18th, 2011 by Dr. Phil

The Senate Hearing on Domestic Violence

345301452_resizeListen up, all you Silence Breakers out there, it’s game time. A very vital piece of legislation that protects millions of victims of domestic violence is now before Congress, and we’ve got to make some noise to make sure it’s passed.

The legislation is called the Violence Against Women Act. It was first ushered into law in 1994 and is now up for reauthorization by Congress. I was recently invited to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a content expert to talk about VAWA, which funds programs that help survivors of domestic violence rebuild their shattered lives. The money from VAWA goes to building vital emergency family shelters and creating domestic abuse hotlines. It also trains police officers on how to better protect victims and prosecutors on how to establish better criminal cases that will stand up in court. And because of VAWA, these women have access to resources such as counseling, financial literacy education, gainful employment, long-term housing options and legal assistance.

In my testimony, I took great care to remind the senators just what is at stake here — every 15 seconds a woman is abused in this country. I did the math for them; during the first hour of that committee hearing alone, 228 women would be beaten, terrorized and intimidated — and by the end of day, three women would be murdered as a result of domestic violence. I also stressed the dangerous, long-term effects that domestic violence has on the more than 10 million children who will see their mothers, sisters or aunts beaten or intimidated this year, and how the violence they are having to endure will cause deeply-rooted problems, including eroding their personalities, mental health and mental fitness, resulting in a host of long-term issues, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.

I showed the committee those devastating before-and-after photos of women who had been on our show — beautiful, healthy looking wives and mothers who had been beaten by their husbands or boyfriends. I talked about Audrey, whose ex-husband set her on fire after she left him, and I talked about Sandra, who lost her left eye when her boyfriend found out where she was hiding and attacked her. And I talked about how difficult it’s been to prosecute men who do such acts — and that we have to keep pushing for legislation to make sure that domestic abuse is taken out of the family courts and put into the criminal justice system, or at a minimum, we create a system of sharing information from one court to the other. “Red tape in the system means that red blood will be spilled in the home,” I told the senators.

Needless to say, I also informed them about our End the Silence on Domestic Violence campaign, and I told them about the thousands of you who have signed up to become Silence Breakers, always ready and able to give your time and resources to help.

And as the hearing came to an end, I thought, Boy, we need the Silence Breakers to come through for us right now. This summer, as I’m sure you know, Congress is looking for all sorts of ways to cut the federal budget, and I’m afraid adequate funding for the Violence Against Women Act is in jeopardy. The co-chair of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, went so far as to declare during the hearing that reviews of VAWA grants have uncovered problems with record-keeping and unallowable expenditures. “In today’s economic environment,” he said, “we cannot tolerate this level of malfeasance in federal grant programs.”

I agree with Sen. Grassley completely. We need to ensure that VAWA’s programs are held to strict accountability.  However, we need to make equally sure that we never turn our backs on women who are in crisis. And make no mistake, this crisis is getting worse, largely due to our economic downturn. Domestic violence numbers spike when people are stressed out over money. One recent report found that some 9,500 women each day cannot get the help they need. They are told there’s no room at the inn.

I worry about those 9,500 women because I know the danger they face.  As we’ve talked about many times on the show, nearly 70 percent of injuries and murders in domestic violence cases happen to women after they leave abusive relationships. It’s a phenomenon known as “separation assault.”  So they need a safe place. And if the federal government doesn’t step in with the funding, then those women are in real trouble, because right now, states and localities can’t afford to keep many of their shelters open, let alone build desperately-needed new ones.

345298042_resizeSo let’s keep active, Silence Breakers. Write to your U.S. representative and senator and let them know how important it is that they vote to re-authorize VAWA. Let’s make sure that money continues to flow into the programs that fund safe havens for those women who have made the brave decision to leave their abusive relationships.  For those of you who haven’t become a Silence Breaker and want to join our campaign, you can go here to take the pledge.

And, as always, if someone you know is an abusive relationship — or if that someone is you — we’ve got a lot of resources at DrPhil.com to help you or your friend get help.

Let’s do what we can to create a world where women feel safe. And let’s certainly make sure our daughters and granddaughters don’t grow up in a world that looks the other way or fails to react if they are the victims of violence. This epidemic cannot remain silent!

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69 Responses to “The Senate Hearing on Domestic Violence”

  1. victoria hope says:

    Dear Dr. Phil:

    My deepest appreciation to you, and to many many more people who are helping bring the issue of Domestic Violence out of the darkness and into the public light.

    Victims have suffered in silence, afraid to report the abuse for fear of retaliation against them or their children, pets or other family members and friends.
    Because abusers not only threaten the victims loved ones, they actually will make tragic attempts in order to control the victim.

    I escaped an incident with the help of two wonderful police officers and I arrived physically unharmed at a safe shelter. I did not escape the long lasting mental and emotional effects but with the help of counselors at the shelters, I was given tools to learn to help myself.

    I have sent letters to you concerning this problem and obviously you have taken a very serious stand against DV. Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

    Thank you to everyone who is willing to tell their story because it will help other victims feel like they are not alone,

    Thank you to the nicest counselors at the safe place for making me feel safe.

    Those shelters do not operate unless there are donations of food, clothing and financial aid because when victims leave home in a hurry they don’t always have time to grab any personal items….so id you wish to be of help then get on the internet, find out what is needed and offer your resources it will be appreciated, I know because I have been there and I sincerely did appreciate a whole lot of stuff especially a cup of nice fresh hot coffee to help settle my nerves.

    The coffee maker, coffee cups and coffee were donated, so were the sheets, pillows and covers on the bed that I slept on in a safe shelter where I was not afraid to sleep at night.

    I could share more about my experience with my abuser but he does not deserve attention, so I chose to write about those angels out there all across the country who deserve attention for trying to make the lives of abused victims return to a safer normal way of life.

    Thank you for the opportunity to submit a comment….Stay Safe….and help stop the violence.

  2. kristina says:

    thank you ! i did not go to a shelter with my three kids i moved away without anyone knowing … so if this could help police learn how to help. And help fund safe places then god bless …

  3. joann hoffman says:

    believe people don’t want 2 get involved. im in a ‘complex’ situation. it sounds like science fiction…was afraid to tell anyone 2 much & your show has made me think differently. sociopaths? how do you figure there minds? have sent you mail……car vandalized again 4 days ago.(knob 2 open glove box broke in 1/2, went to autoZone, they grisly glued it ) ..not because of love, x despises me. If amber frey wouldn’t have had the courage to do what she did, Scott peterson would be walking the streets….interview with drew peterson made me feel, was my X husband. my sister believes him. he is pillar of the community, leading double life. this has been going on since 2005. Escalating. counselor thought after divorce final it would end. wen attorney said in court,” his co-horts won’t leave her alone even in florida,” thought it would stop.DIDN’t. he is trying to get me institunolized. Who would believe this? He is personaly not doing anything. my sister says “why hasn’t he killed you”? She believes him. she invited him to my God daughter neices wedding, not me. she said “im enjoying my retirement & don’t want to hear this stuff”..she told my kids to block my calls. His OWN neice & aunt said there laughing@her. counslor said im dealing with 2 sociopaths. KasperkyInternet security confirmed 3rd party back door.Friend just sent me smal lap top, he was1 of tons of computer tech who workd on computer.He “found & saw lot”. it’s also name recognizable, they, know ive contactd you.who would believe im stalked 24/7? Sounds insane to me also. txts in my cell ‘unbelievable’.wen txt # they say mistake mostim signed cary? different #’s. Just recieved 2..not good…when i called the police in home town, i got this text is “natiional shut the f up day & other lewd remarks…im no saint, but i say Y me God.. thank you. God Bless you & Robin. don’t know if you can help me. Big concern is my daughter from 1st marriage. You are both giving people hope more than u can know! So happy for you being grandparents.

  4. William [Bill] Whiting says:

    Dr. Phil I think face book promotes valance towards woman! I just started using Buddy Polk and looking at different scenarios I found in the section for Mood the third tab in shows mad moods that has 90% valance to women avatars. Am I wrong in my thinking?
    You have my email I would like to know.

  5. Estela says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,

    I’ve sent several messages because I wanted to see more shows regarding domestic violence. Since, I’ve seen several shows. I’m a dedicated viewer. I hope to find out how a victim of domestic violence can over come it and get back to leading a normal life. I went through two back to back domestic violence relationships. I take a lot of medication for depression, anxiety, panic attacks. Suffer severe migraines. I feel the medication doesn’t help but at times it does. I don’t want to be reliant on medication in order to feel okay and go on with every day life. I take lots of notes on your shows on domestic violence hoping to learn something new or how to go about things. Many places don’t help victims of domestic violence like they should. Instead they let the abuser get away with it all especially if they are caucasion or have a family member in law enforcement. They always wind up walking away with just a slap on the hand as if they did no wrong. On top of it all, they make the victims share custody of the children, leaving the victim to still deal with their abuser. I want to thank you for having more shows on domestic violence and prevention. I would also hope to see you add how we can go about gaining custody of our children, and also getting help in starting life over. Since kicking out my two younger children’s father out of the home, I have gone to a community college and received 9 Associates in Arts degrees but can’t get help or scholarships to continue my education. I would love to receive my Bachelors and Masters so I can get a good job to provide for my children instead of living of the welfare system that only gives me $608 to live on. It would be great to receive information on the how to’s after leaving an abusive relationship. Thank you for taking the time to read my message and look forward to view it on a show.

  6. papi says:

    Hope our Government take this seriously, they should have local agencies who are focusing on this case like this, especially on children and women.

  7. Sharon Ell says:

    Dr. Phil, I have two daughters, my youngest being 29. She is the mother of my 2-year old grandbaby, and lives with the father. They have been together since she was 14. I have been aware that her boyfriend (who won’t marry her) is abusive, and as well my oldest daughter has been in many altercations with him for the same reason. They recently visited us for Christmas and I was utterly devastated at the treatment he displayed towards her. His lack of respect for her, me, her sister, her nieces, and everyone around him has me in turmoil! Everyone literally tiptoes around him just to make things “easier” for my daughter. It’s utterly insane. He does not let her shine in any way, and cuts her down immediately if she starts to let her guard down. She is in constant fear of his next command, and in a constant state of making sure everything is “okay” just so he doesn’t freak on her. Obviously I have MANY details, however, do not doubt the severity of this situation. My daughter is closing in on herself, and I don’t know what to do as a mother. My oldest daughter feels it’s too late to do anything after so many years, and that it’s best to stay out of it so she can in turn gain the continued company of her sister, however, I refuse to believe that we cannot somehow save her from this doom. She is aware of how he is. He has been diagnosed with a form of depression, but refuses to take his medications. He needs help. But most importantly, my daughter needs help. What advise can you give me??????

  8. alyssa says:


    In addition to you endind the silence on domestic violence, you should also be trying to give a voice back to these invisible children. This is a fantastic cause that deserves media spot light so the rest of the country can see what happens behind Ugandas closed doors.

  9. Anne says:

    Thank you, Doctor Phil, for your support in this area. As a woman from domestic violence, and never to be there again, i had no access to a safe house when i sought sanctuary from my husband; there were none in establishment in my area in 1972. The church threw me back to my husband, society threw me back to my husband, and my parent did the same. Later, in 1982, one of the last Phil Donahue shows depicted women that remained in abusive relationships as ‘Swiss cheese’, as having holes that the abuser filled. I was stunned at the way women were encouraged to admit that they contributed to their own brutalization. I have long since agreed that women have a right to fight for who they are. Had such safe houses existed in 1972, my children and i would not have lived and experienced ten more abusive years at the hands of society, religion, family…and that man that perpetrated the whole scheme.

    I agree domestic violence needs to be in criminal courts on the first onset, not on a three strike bases. Once is enough!

    Do you know women that defend themselves during a domestic violence episode are held in the same advisement as the attacker; meaning, she is prosecuted if she raises a hand, or other mode of protection, in defending herself.

    If there are women now living in a violent relationship, reading along this blog that Doctor Phil has provided on this very crucial subject, listen to this. More than you know, there is no pain comparable, to absorbing into your life, what the endurance to domestic violence produces in the pain of loosing a child to the lifelong, living traumas of a stolen life from living in a violent home.

    Please take the hand offered by the VAWA.
    Thank you for reading.

  10. kimberley says:

    Dear Dr Phil

    The statement of how there are no resources for men….ANGERED me

    I am a legally separated women……I have been denied Legal Aid,which by the pamphlet provided I should be entitled to. Women s advocacy, and Victim Services, that are offered in Canada… To be in the situation that Im in , as bad as it sounds I would have stayed in the very abusive situation that I was in rather than living on the streets which I am.

    I feel like I should of been in the paper found dead before my situation is to be recognized….but let me assure you Im stronger than that …..just wish there was somethng out there for a girl who left her maritlal home with no belongings to go and live in a snowbank

    Regards Kimberley a Fn of yours

    I was told to just deal with falling through the cracks.

    I have fallen through the cracks of all systems offered you are loooking at the next bag lady that will be pushing a cart and sleeping under bridges..

    Can you help me there is more to this story its very complex but ask me anything and I give word , that what comes from my mouth to your ears is the truth

    o much for all my eduacation I wanted to contribute to society not cost society hence forth I apply for no welfare assistance

  11. sukhjeet kour says:

    dear Dr Phil. i want to share a story with everyone.on march 8Th 2009 i came to USA along with my husband with lot of dreams from India. he was a software engineer there.after reaching there within week he started beating me.i was confined there.he was not letting me to talk to anybody.i was a educated girl.i have done masters in statistic .he was abusing me mentally and physically.there was nobody to help me.i was all alone there.i was supposed to tell my parents that am in good condition because i was allowed to call them in front of him only.
    i tried to escape many times but my passport and documents were with him.my condition was getting worst day by day.my whole american dreams were scattered.after one and a half year he tried to kill me.but with the grace of god police saved my life but at that time no help was provided to me by american government.i have full proofs statement of three police officers.he is still on arrest warrant.
    thanks sukhjeet

  12. Barb Stewart says:

    When does the violence against her from him end… I’m the mother of a woman with two sons. For the last seven + months she has had no contact with her boys not even one visit. Now I could understand it if she had committed a crime but in the meantime she is missing them grow up (this is something no one can give them back) I truly feel her rights were violated in many ways and from different departments of our justice system. From the ex husband , CPS and even the judge. Ya need ta help advise her PLEASE.

  13. Annette McNamara says:

    I will agree to disagree, we need to focus on women abuse and with this bill approved we are putting women in danger. Change the name to what it really is. It’s time for action not labeling women with huge amounts of funding. Put it on someone else’s back like Helping all Cultures and Educating Society on what we can do better. Dr. Phil did you know that in this bill, there is a law that a women abused has to live within 100 miles of their abuser, if they have children? These programs are not focused toward’s shelter’s, they have to find their own funding. It’s time to stop labeling women and change the name to what it really is a fund for catch all need’s in society. Read it you will see. Sincerely a former women abused that had no rights.

  14. Krista says:

    Thank you Dr. Phil for staying on top of this Silent Epidemic, especially with the economy there are so many women (including myself) who have no place to go, are in a very vulnerable position, no jobs (to make enough to survive alone) I too have been in a very volatile situation. But never giving up that I will get the money, and car to move! This has been the biggest challenge I have had in my life. I have finally become empowered and boy did his behavior change! It was always about his control, and never about me. It was about his insecurity, and fear. I finally realized he’s nothing but a BIG BULLY. Any man who threatens a woman has no backbone.
    Put downs, belittling, Disrespect, gaslighting, projection….and on and on. I will move on and be a stronger woman for this experience. My heart goes out to the ones
    who are in the beginning stages of this. Keep putting the word out, so more women
    will become empowered, and Stay strong!

    God Bless you Dr. Phil


  15. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much, Dr. Phil, for the blog above. I am a survivor of domestic violence to an extreme degree. I was lucky to get out. I never went to a shelter because my abuser told me that if I left him he would harm my family and me. I finally had his approval to leave him. Shortly after, he went back on that approval and I lived in fear for days. I was even taken into protective custody with the military since he was an active duty Sargent in the Army. Sense then, he has been dishonorably discharged.

    I could go on with pages of things that happened in my relationship with him. Thankfully I am not only alive, but with an amazing new husband. I still have horrific memories of my past and was diagnosed with PTSD as a result, but I have been able to learn to live with that while enjoying all the blessings I currently have.

    Thank you for your blog…the silence needs to be broken!

    Many blessings,


  16. Judith Soyster says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,
    We hear about the stories, but until we live it we cannot fully understand all the
    horrors that go with living the nightmare. This is a story about my sister, Mary.
    She was in her fifties when she met up with Mike at a local bar hangout.
    Mary was a Nurse Case Manager and Mike was an on again off again plumber.
    They were drinking buddies. He ended up murdering my sister and is now in jail.
    We tried to save her numerous times but she kept going back. I have made it a
    quest to make our legislators enact a registry of felon abusors, called “Mary’s List”. So those that meet up with these people can have a place to go check to see if they are registered felony abusors. Thank you for keeping us informed. If you can put in a good word for us that don’t have good access to our legislators as to how important the legislation is I would be very greatful. Thank you Judith Soyster, Mary’s sister

  17. Truenigmaja says:

    I understand the need for laws but you must also factor into the act that men are abused too, most just won’t speak out because of the stigma attached to it and the way it looks, so it should be Violence Against Women and Men Act. I’ll take been beaten any day against some of the things that a woman can do and say to hurt me, when they are confronted with the lies they tell and act as if nothing is wrong, when you do all you can for someone and they turn around and hurt you emotionally those scars don’t heal, they don’t go away. When one someone makes you never trust any one again, when you do all the things that anyone would do to make another person happy and you just there holding the bag being fed scraps, it amazing how many people how many men have to deal with this on a daily basis. It is no excuse for physical abuse but who protects the men or is it that we don’t need protecting, who sits her down and says to her that you need to do better and it doesn’t come off like the man is a whip and end up with her doing him more emotional damage. Maybe that’s just me still but think about it, men are hurt physically just as much as women and regardless of the number men need protection to, not just from the violence but from the shame that comes with know that he couldn’t do anything to defend himself and if he did hit her back then he’d be charged no doubt for abusing her…If you check most of the laws and look at the data abuse is always made to look as if it comes only from a man it always has.

  18. Mandy says:

    Stressed Couple in Ohio my fiance was stressed and began using drugs and we had some stresses in our relationship with his daughters mother. He became depressed and we began becoming more distant but I noticed he was acting different. When I came home from work one afternoon in August 2012 he was in a Meth rage and pulled me down the drive way by my hair I fell and we began rolling around the yard I remember looking in his face seeing nothing just a checked out stare. He I believe was in a black out He hit me once When I got in my home My face was bloody both of my eyes were black and i felt dizzy. He still did not say anything I was in a state of shock as he had NEVER did anything like this before. My neighbor heard me screaming when I was outside and called the police and he was arrested and he was put in jail however this would have Never happened if it was not for the drugs and he did appologize to me and admitted guilt and asked for a program they charged him with felonious assult 2nd degree felony punishable 2 to 8 years they offered 3 years flat time and he said that was fine but he wanted to let the judge sentence him so she could send him to a program or some where that had a program that could help him to make his time help him to the best of his ability on sentencing day we were FLOORED when he could have taken the 3 years flat time and she sentenced him 7 years and he will have to serve 5 years before he can even file for any type of release I guess this is what we get for thinking the system was really rehabilitating or keeping families together. Now His daughter turning 4 next week not even in kindergarden will not possiblly see her dad till Jr High when some people with Attempted Murder Charges are given 6 & 7 Year sentences. Dont get Us Wrong this was a Very Serious and Wrong Act but an Extreme Punishment from what was Offered and what was given

  19. Mark says:

    Domestic violence is really a crime to the heart. It is like no other crime, though one out of misplaced passion. The abuser suffers just as much if he/she feel the need to contol with violence. However, tougher laws need to be implemented to send a message, that relationships are sacred not one of opportunity to damage and harm because of indifference or choices beyond their control. Violence is not the solution, though it may feel like the result to submit a partner unto their agenda. We have the right to live in peace and safety regardless of our agendas.

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