Jolie, who brought daughter Zahara along with her to Washington, got emotional when addressing a packed press conference – and shamed Congress’ ‘silence’ on the matter as they’ve not reauthorized the bill in nearly a decade.
‘Most of all, I want to acknowledge – most of all, I want to acknowledge the children who are terrified and suffering at this moment,’ she said, her voice cracking. ‘And the many people for whom this legislation comes too late.’
Actress Angelina Jolie visited Capitol Hill Wednesday to help a bipartisan group of senators roll out a new version of the Violence Against Women Act
Actress Angelina Jolie (right) shakes hands with Sen. Dick Durbin (left) at an event Wednesday announcing a modernized Violence Against Women Act
Angelina Jolie stands alongside (from left) Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Dianne Feinstein, Joni Ernst and Susan Collins
‘The women who have suffered through this system with little or no support, they still carry the pain and trauma of their abuse,’ the A-list actress continued. ‘The young adults who have survived abuse and emerged stronger not because of the child protective system, but despite it.’
‘And the women and children who have died, who could have been saved,’ she said.
Four senators opened the program – Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Lisa Murkowski – and said they believed the bill they were introducing could get enough bipartisan support to override a filibuster threat.
Feinstein, a Democrat from California, marveled at the size of the audience when she stepped up to the podium.
‘I walked in, and I thought, oh my goodness, look at the numbers. They must really like the bill,’ she joked. ‘And then I figured you know, could it be one California woman who has come here from a city known as Los Angeles?’
‘And I think it may be part of that. A good part of it,’ she said, laughing. ‘Never assume that it is us.’
Angelina Jolie (left) posted a photo with her daughter Zahara (right) as she prepared to speak at a Senate press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill
The actress also stopped by and visited with Environmental Protection Agency head Michael Regan (left)
Jolie, who’s no stranger to Washington or political causes – and even met with Environmental Protection Agency head Michael Regan before her appointment on Capitol Hill – fussed at lawmakers for not reauthorizing the bill since 2013.
‘The reason that many people struggle to leave abusive situations is that they’ve been made to feel worthless,’ she said. ‘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 abusers right. I guess I’m not worth very much,’ the actress continued.
‘That’s why passing this law is one of the most important votes US senators will cast this year,’ she told the lawmakers.
Ernst, an Iowa Republican, talked about how the bill was personal to her, a survivor of abuse.
‘I know firsthand what happens when someone you trust abuses you,’ she told the crowd.
Jolie said the ‘ugly truth’ was that ‘violence in homes is normalized in our country.’
‘The idea of sovereignty of a family home is being used to abuse the members within it,’ the actress said.
Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said the group was ‘perilously close to 60 votes,’ which would enable the bill to pass the Senate.
‘I don’t know if there’s any formal White House endorsement,’ he also said.
President Joe Biden has often spoken about his role as its chief sponsor when getting the first VAWA across the line in 1994 while serving in the U.S. Senate.
He condemned the Republicans for dragging their feet in 2012 and 2013 when the bill was being reauthorized last and he was serving as vice president.
The new version came together after the so-called ‘boyfriend loophole’ got scrapped.
The boyfriend loophole has to do with whether unmarried partners could have guns if one of them was found guilty of domestic abuse.
The National Rifle Association – and with it likely Republican votes – were against its inclusion.
At the press conference, Feinstein bemoaned its exclusion.
‘Now, this isn’t a perfect bill and I regret that the boyfriend loophole is not addressed. And many of us have tried very hard to get there. But it’s a good bill,’ the California Democrat said. ‘And we finally need to get a Violence AGainst Women Act reauthorization to the president’s desk.’
‘It’s not perfect but it’s a big advance,’ she added.