MALONEY LEADS FIGHT TO COMBAT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
NEW YORK: In the wake of the ghastly attacks on at least 24 women in Central Park this Sunday, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (Manhattan, Queens) and leading women's rights leaders condemned hate crimes today, and urged passage of three Federal bills that would establish a more comprehensive program to fight hate crimes and gender-related violence. Violent crimes motivated by gender bias, race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, disability, or national origin, are extremely unjust because they create a climate of fear that keeps a particular segment of society from participating fully and freely in society.
The following are Maloney's comments from the press conference:
"This Sunday, all of us were shocked and horrified as women began to tell their stories of being surrounded, stripped, robbed and harassed by a gang of men in Central Park. There is only one thing that unites these victims. They are from different countries, different ages, different races. But all of them were women. The mob went after these victims simply because they were women - and they humiliated them because they were women.
"Hate crimes create a climate of fear that keep a particular class of people from participating fully in society. There are reports that, following this latest rampage, teenage victims are afraid to go to school and women are afraid to leave their homes or take a walk in the park. This has all the hallmarks of a classic hate crime. Think about it - if a gang wandered through Central Park beating people up and they only targeted people who were Asian we would recognize that as a hate crime. This is a hate crime too.
"The shocking part is that law enforcement personnel can't prosecute or investigate these crimes as hate crimes. It seems like a riddle Lewis Carroll could have posed in Alice in Wonderland - when is a hate crime not a hate crime? The answer is - when hate crime laws omit gender as one of the classifications for which prosecutors can seek a harsher sentence. Unfortunately, Federal legislation limits the category of hate crimes to race, religion and origin. So -- Prosecutors can't prosecute this as a hate crime, and the Justice Department can't count this as a hate crime. The FBI can't even investigate this as a hate crime.
"There is legislation in Congress, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, HR1082, which would expand the definition of hate crimes to cover gender, sexual orientation and disability. We need to pass that bill and we need to pass it now.
"Interestingly, Congress requires the Justice Department to collect statistics on hate crimes - and this mandate includes sexual orientation and disability, even though they can't prosecute those crimes as hate crimes. I have a bill, the Hate Crimes Statistics Improvement Act, HR 4317,that requires the Justice Department to gather statistics about gender-based hate crimes as well.
"Further, in 1992, Congress passed legislation, the Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding and established programs to combat violence against women. That bill is will expire unless it is reauthorized this year. The Violence Against Women Act provides funding for training, education and outreach so that state and federal agencies can do a better job of combating violence against women.
"VAWA ensures that police officers are trained to appropriately and effectively deal with violence against women. What better evidence do we need that this bill should be reauthorized than the fact that the police reportedly turned a blind eye to violence in Central Park this weekend. Those officers may need better training to know what to do when faced with mob violence against women. It has been an extremely successful bill, one that prosecutors around the country find to be really valuable. In fact, prosecutors offices in Queens and Brooklyn have taken advantage of the bill and received federal grants worth millions of dollars to enhance training of law enforcement personnel and improve coordination among various different law enforcement programs. But the House leadership won't let the reauthorization bill come to the floor for a vote.
"We need to give prosecutors the tools to do their jobs. If criminals are motivated by bias, then prosecutors should have the ability to seek a higher penalty. The Central Park violence sends a chilling message to women - women are being taught that they must be afraid, that they cannot walk alone in the park, that they cannot go to a parade, that they must limit their activities.
"That's just wrong. That's what sets these crimes apart from ordinary violence -- it is the fact that these criminals are sending a message -- that women should know their place. We should send a message back -- if you target people because they are women, or because they are gay or because they are black, asian or hispanic, then you will have to face a higher penalty. We should pass the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act." 1