Shalala Speaks at K-School

Secretary Urges Activism on Domestic Violence

Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala proposed government activism in tackling the problems of domestic violence in a speech at the Kennedy School last night.

In a speech titled, "Building on the Violence Against Women Act: New Challenges for a Safer America," Shalala advocated a "seamless system" which would protect women in danger of abuse.

"Right now we are at a crossroads. Never before has so much public attention been focussed on the abuse of women and families," Shalala said. "And never before have we had the momentum on a national scale to develop systemic and comprehensive solutions."

Shalala described the first steps in implementing the Violence Against Women Act. The first phase will be a 24 hour-a-day national hot line for women facing domestic abuse.

At the same time, she said, an effective effort to combat domestic violence needs to involve participation and reform at all levels.


"When that switchboard begins lightening up, we will need to be ready with shelters, safe houses and services. We will need well-trained police officers, health professionals, social workers, prosecutors and judges," Shalala said.

Shalala made repeated references to Quincy, Massachusetts as the model for national reforms of domestic violence.

"Quincy has one of the most progressive and comprehensive programs in America to stop domestic violence," she said.

Shalala said Quincy uses its court system "to protect women and to punish those who hurt them" and includes the use of mental health officials and the social service community in conjunction with the criminal justice system.

To implement the reforms in Quincy on a national level, Shalala said citizens andcommunities need to act on a larger scale. Shesaid that there needs to be cooperation not onlyamong the different support groups but alsobetween the legal, judicial and civil elements ofsociety.

"Government cannot solve any great socialproblems alone, and it shouldn't be counted on totry," she said. "Any strategy to stop domesticviolence must involve a broad network ofcitizens--including every single one of us."

"Let's make sure that domestic violence doesn'tgo back into the closet--the way it was in thepast," added Shalala, who has been praised for heroutspokenness on the issue of domestic violence