Organizers of the Next Millenium Conference opened the four-day domestic violence awareness event yesterday with a videotaped address by First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who declared, "Citizens and governments around the world will recognize that domestic violence is not a custom, it is a crime."
More than 2,000 domestic violence experts, survivors, and advocates assembled for the Chicago conference, which was organized by the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) are just two of the conference's scheduled speakers.
Anna Belle Burleson of Austin, Texas, is one of the many domestic violence survivors participating in the conference. After 10 years in an abusive marriage, Burleson finally was prompted to leave after she "looked death in the face." Burleson explained, "The last time I was assaulted, it was very severe and I realized that if I did not get out of this relationship, I was going to be murdered." Burleson is now divorced and works tirelessly on behalf of other domestic violence survivors.