Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

 Madam Speaker, I would like to tell you about the silent war of crime on the social worker community of America.

Teri Zenner loved being a social worker. In August 2004, Teri went to check on a routine visit to a mentally unstable client, to make sure that he was taking his medication. When she went into the client's home, he accosted her with a knife and ordered her up into his bedroom, holding her hostage.

What his intentions for Teri were are not known. He never got the chance to act on them. He lived with his mother and she came home early from work that day. His mother heard Teri's cries from the lower level of the house and went to investigate.

Opening the door to her son's bedroom, the mother saw Teri being held hostage by her son. Teri, seeing her one opportunity to escape, ran for the door. As she tried to free herself, her captor stabbed her in the throat. She continued her desperate run for freedom, but her attacker gave chase and continued to stab her over and over. He then went up to his bedroom, where he had a chainsaw, and continued his assault on Teri with it. Teri Zenner was 26 years old. She died because she was trying to make sure that her attacker had been taking care of himself.

I have met Teri's husband, Matt, a wonderful man--he too is a victim of his wife's homicide.

I would like to thank Congressman Dennis Moore, KS, for bringing this homicide to the attention of Congress. The issue of social worker safety has become vitally important inthe United States. They are literally on the front lines of social violence in our country.

Social workers are required to respond to homes to evaluate claims of child abuse and neglect. Many of these situations require that the workers remove the children from the home, a solution that angers the accused parents. These types of situations leave social workers vulnerable to escalating situations and threats of violence, without the training or resources necessary to protect themselves.

As the saying goes, ``No good deed goes unpunished.'' The good they do for our community is sometimes punished by people in the community. In 2005 and 2006, in Texas, there were several attacks on social workers. One of those attacks resulted in a social worker being murdered. According to Texas social workers, they are subjected to being ``threatened, cursed at, chased by dogs, spit upon, and run out of houses by angry parents.''

It has become essential for this Nation to protect those who work to protect our children, and others, in our society. For these reasons, Congressman Dennis Moore has introduced H.R. 2165--Teri Zenner Social Worker Safety Act, which I am an original cosponsor. This legislation will establish grants to provide social workers, domestic violence outreach staff, and other individuals who work with at-risk populations with workplace safety measures, equipment, and training.

These crimes affect all States and all districts throughout the Nation--and these individuals should not worry about their personal safety while striving to protect the most vulnerable victims--children.

Social workers are the second highest at-risk group of people in our society. The first are peace officers. Social workers deserve our protection.

Madam Speaker, we need to get to a place in our country where we no longer have the need to name laws after murder victims.

And that's just the way it is.