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Conference Hears Villaraigosa Plea Against Violence

October 13, 2000

NORTHRIDGE — In a moving testament against domestic violence, Antonio Villaraigosa recounted Thursday a childhood marked by fear of an abusive alcoholic father who often beat his mother.

The audience at Cal State Northridge listened in silence as Villaraigosa, mayoral candidate and former speaker of the state Assembly, asserted that 40 years later, he is still haunted by the memory of his mother's screams.

"I was 3, 4, 5, hearing the screams in the living room, the bedroom, all sides," Villaraigosa, 47, said in a speech at the fourth annual Ending Violence Against Women conference.

"I felt chills going down my spine, terrified of this man--my father--who was beating my mother, and fearing that my sister and I would be next."

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti later told conferees that most death row inmates come from abusive homes.

Villaraigosa urged community members to break the cycle and set an example for their children.

"I tell my own son: Hitting women is unacceptable," he said.

Women are not the only victims of violence, although they are the majority, said Susan Holt, director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Men are increasingly victims of emotionally and physically abusive relationships.

"Violence is not defined by gender or size," said Holt. "Violence is about desire to maintain power and control over the victim."

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