Angelina Jolie continues to be one of the most vocal proponents of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a legislation aimed at reducing domestic and sexual violence and protecting survivors that expired in 2018. On Wednesday, the 46-year-old Academy Award winner again headed to the Capitol to urge senators for its renewal, marking the third time she’s done so in the past four months. Just like this past December, she was accompanied by her 17-year-old daughter Zahara Jolie-Pitt, whom she thanked for “calm[ing her] nerves” ahead of delivering an emotional six-minute speech at the White House that ended with her nearly in tears.
“Standing here, at the center of our nation’s power, I can think only of everyone who’s been made to feel powerless by their abusers, by a system that fails to protect them,” Jolie began. “Parents whose children have been murdered by an abusive partner, women who suffer domestic violence yet are not believed, children who have suffered life-altering trauma and post-traumatic stress at the hands of people closest to them. Anyone who’s been in those situations will tell you just how far they feel from the power concentrated here in this building—the power to pass laws that might have prevented their pain the first place.”
“The reason that many people struggle to leave abusive situations is that they’ve been made to feel worthless,” Jolie continued. “When there is silence from a Congress too busy to renew the Violence Against Women Act for a decade, it reinforces that sense of worthlessness. You think, ‘I guess my abuser’s right, I guess I’m not worth very much.’” The way things stand, Jolie continued, “the ugly truth is that violence in homes is normalized in our country.” Citing the fact that child abuse and neglect claims the lives of between four and seven children each day in America, she stressed that the VAWA would be one of the most important votes that senators in attendance will cast this year.
“As survivors of abuse know all too well, victims of our failed systems are not allowed to be angry,” Jolie went on. “You’re supposed to be calm, patient and ask nicely. But you try staying calm when it’s as if someone is holding your head under water and you’re drowning. Try to stay calm when you’re witnessing someone you love being harmed. Try to stay calm if after you were strangled and you find the courage to come forward, you discover that your chances of proving the abuse are now gone, because no one took into account the different ways bruising presents in Black or brown skin and they failed to check properly for signs of injury.”
Measures as simple as funding for non-racially biased forensic evidence collection, Jolie concluded, are basics that no survivor should have to ask for. Listen to her full speech below.