United States: 10th Anniversary of Death of Domestic Violence Advocate
Thursday, October 25, 2012 5:20 PM

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the tragic and untimely death of Sheila Wellstone, a champion of the movement to end violence against women. When Sheila died in a plane crash on October 25, 2002, along with her husband, Senator Paul Wellstone, her daughter, Marcia, and five others, she left a legacy that began with a grass-roots effort to understand domestic violence and culminated in the passage of the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act in 1994.
When her husband, Paul, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1990 Sheila developed an interest in domestic violence, immersed herself in the subject, and took on the issue as her own. The more that Sheila learned, the more appalled she became at the magnitude of the problem. She approached domestic violence as a public health issue, meeting with police, judges, clergy and educators to establish an understanding of community responsibility for ending violence. She cared especially about the safety and welfare of children.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that Sheila and Paul worked so hard to pass in 1994 established recognition and funding for community organizations working to end violence, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers. Since the passage of VAWA states have enacted 660 laws to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. A national hotline has answered two million calls since 1996. 
VAWA was re-enacted in 2000 and 2005 but re-authorization is currently stalemated in Congress. Sheila’s photograph hangs on the wall in the office of Lynn Rosenthal, the White House adviser on violence against women, in recognition of her accomplishment.