The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the reauthorization of the updated Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on Thursday afternoon, amid opposition from the National Rifle Association.
But ahead of the House vote, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, took to the floor to give a heartfelt speech about her own experiences witnessing her mother’s abuse.
Pressley shared a video clip of her speech on Twitter:
My mommy, Sandy, was beaten for being too pretty, too ugly, too smart, too dumb, too black. Let us reject the myth that strong women, bold women, independent women, do not find themselves in the throes of violence at the hands of someone who claimed to love them. #VAWA #VAWA19 pic.twitter.com/9dXeUsCKTd
— Rep Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) April 4, 2019
“I rise today to bring our stories out of the shadows,” Pressley began.
“Let us reject the myth that strong women, bold women, independent women, do not find themselves in the throes of violence at the hands of someone who claimed to love them.
“My mother, my shero, found herself in such an abusive relationship. One that threatened her physical safety, her sanity, chipped away at her dignity and her joy.
“As a child who witnessed the abuse and degradation of the person who is your world, your everything, it is an image, a feeling, which never leaves.
“To the millions of women who find themselves in the shoes of my mother, and to the countless daughters who find themselves looking on, I see you.
“I am fighting for you, and all the Sandys out there. My mom, Sandy, depending on the day, was beaten for being too pretty, too ugly, too smart, too dumb. This man beat my mother’s limbs and downed her spirit. His abuse was the deepest of betrayals.
“For the stories that we share here today, if they make people uncomfortable — good.
“Let that discomfort lead to transformation. Transformation in our discourse, transformation in our lawmaking and a renewed commitment to our shared humanity. No more.
“Mommy, this one’s for you.”
VAWA, first established in 1994, funds programs to prevent and prosecute abuse against women.
The NRA, and most House Republicans, opposed “the new provisions to lower the criminal threshold to bar someone from buying a gun to include misdemeanor convictions of domestic abuse or stalking charges,” according to NPR.
Currently, the law applies to felony convictions.
The House vote for VAWA was 263 to 158. Only 33 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. It now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate.