Victims' Rights Caucus


Jenny Rogers

 Lawmakers, activists, and an actor or two joined up Thursday morning to discuss violence against women. Hosted by Women Thrive Worldwide, the breakfast included a thoughtful panel discussion, actress Maria Bello, and scones.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Tex., sponsor of the International Violence Against Women Act, spoke about how he was shaped by hearing domestic violence cases during his time as a judge in Texas. “People would ask, did I become callous?” he said. “I guess I didn’t. I became just the opposite. I became incensed.” (As a judge, Poe was known to make convicted wife-beaters publicly apologize on the steps of City Hall.) Poe urged the women in the crowd to channel his beloved grandmother, who said, “There’s nothing more powerful than a woman who’s made up her mind.” 

Bello, who has devoted significant time to advocating for the women of Haiti, joined representatives from aid organizations to speak about the plight of women around the world. Dressed in a suit with her hair pulled into a no-fuss bun, Bello ranted about the billions of dollars that poured into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, none of them earmarked for women’s organizations, which greatly angered her, the acclaimed actress told the crowd.

Later, Bello told Yeas & Nays that her work in Haiti, which began before the earthquake, now overshadows her acting career. “I’m an activist before I’m an actor,” she said. “Even when I’m working, 80 hours of my week is geared toward Haiti.” She estimates that she spends “a quarter of my time” in Haiti every year, but the work hasn’t necessarily influenced her film choices.

“I don’t know about choosing roles,” Bello mused. “The next movie I’m doing is 'Grown Ups 2.'”