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Mayor vows fight against domestic violence

(Published November 1, 1999)


Staff Writer

In the ongoing struggle to stop attacks by stalkers, rapists and domestic batterers, Washington’s women have 30 new allies: the reconstituted Mayor’s Commission on Violence Against Women.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who swore in the commission Oct. 19, vowed to stand up for women by stopping sexual assaults and domestic violence.

"We know that no longer can we let women we love — like a mother, like a daughter — stand in the shadow of shame," Williams said. "We all know that domestic violence has no boundaries."

The commission is a group of 30 people representing women’s and victim’s rights groups, ministers, lawyers, business people, educators, military personnel, sociologists and doctors. All are unpaid mayoral appointees serving for terms of one to three years.

The commission was formed in 1996 to advise then-mayor Marion Barry on how to coordinate the city’s resources to combat gender-motivated violence. The commission is the descendant of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, which is administered through D.C. Superior Court.

The commission will address such issues as domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, elder abuse, teen dating violence, stalking, workplace violence and other types of gender-motivated violence.

Marna Tucker, the commission’s chairman, presented a report by the commission containing110 short-term and long-term recommendations on violence prevention to the mayor.

"Our primary recommendation is that the District needs to use local resources and elected officials," Tucker said. "Help us bring our city back to us and take it back from the batterers."

The report, "Violence Against Women: The District’s Blueprint for the Millennium," is the product of the commission’s members and a Department of Justice grant to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. It was based on forums, focus groups, surveys and the individual expertise of the commissioners themselves.

According to the report, the approach to fighting violence against women has been fragmented because of a lack of strong leadership by local officials. The report stated that there is no clear command structure between the highest elected officials to the government agencies responsible for handling services for victims of violence.

In addition to improving the city’s command structure, the report called on the District to improve housing, counseling, legal, medical and social services available to victims of violence. The report also called on the city to create a sexual assault nurse examiner to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the police department to ensure a high conviction rate for abusers by thoroughly collecting evidence. Other recommendations included creating an 800 telephone number for victims to discover where perpetrators are in the justice system, for schools to conduct programming on teen dating violence and for the media and ministers to address domestic violence.

Councilman Harold Brazil, D-At large, chairman of the D.C. City Council’s judiciary committee, vowed to work closely with the commission. He called domestic violence "a major, major problem" that requires increased public awareness.

Brazil said he has a message to men who abuse women:

"The U.S. Attorney’s Office is real hard on domestic violence," Brazil said. "If you do that kind of stuff, you’re going to go to jail."

U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis congratulated the mayor for emphasizing the seriousness of domestic violence.

"I applaud and am encouraged by the mayor’s decision to elevate the issue of violence against women within his administration because violence against women has a pervasive and destructive impact on the family unit and society as a whole," Lewis said in a prepared statement.

Lewis said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1996 created its Domestic Violence Unit to prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases with the help of D.C. Superior Court. She added that the office has expanded the unit to include felony domestic violence cases and also has a domestic violence coordinator to handle counseling and provide added security for domestic violence victims.

The following are commission members: Marna Tucker; Grace Orsini-Mohamed, a community educational coordinator for My Sister’s Place; Dr. Kim Bullock, assistant chairman of the Providence Hospital Emergency Room; Audrey Hairston of the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Washington; vice chair Dr. Gwendolyn Keita, director of the American Psychological Association’s Wo-men’s Programs Office; Dr. Eliot Sorel, president of the World Association for Social Psychiatry; Lori Stiegel, associate staff director of the ABA Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly; Diana Onley-Campbell, assistant director of The Union Institute for Women; Twanna Spurgeon, a weekend counselor for My Sister’s Place and Women with H.O.P.E.; Trent Tucker, Penelope Myers-Brooks, the Reverend Donna M. Butts of First Baptist Church of Deanwood; Helen Latimer, an associate with Burdeshaw Associates, Ltd.; Helyn Thombs-Short, Tina M. Boggan-Camara, the commission’s public relations coordinator; Chuck Hicks, president of Local 1808 of AFSCME DC 20; Deborah Epstein, a Georgetown Univer-sity law professor; Carolyn B. Lamm, Bernard Richardson, Susan M. Hansen, president of National Health Strategies, Ltd.; Joan S. Meier, a law professor at George Washington University, Joan Furlong, Lynn McCoy, Joan Wallace, Thelma Brown, Bishop Imagene B. Stewart, Jacquelyn Pinckney, Cherie Bellamy Lori J. Humphreys, C. Adele Dodson,

The following government officials are ex-officio voting members: Charlotte Clarke of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Violence Against Women Pro-gram; Judge Stephen Milliken of D.C. Superior Court; D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey; D.C. Department of Corrections director Odie Washington; the Rev. Donald Robinson of the mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs; Margaret Quick of the D.C. parole board; Malinda Carter of the D.C. Department of Health and Preventive Health Services, U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis; Captain Christopher Cooch of the police department’s youth division; and Thelma Brown and Henning Vent of the Office of the Corporation Counsel’s Domestic Violence Unit.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator