Family violence center breaks ground in the Presidio 

Politicians and Hollywood elite turned out Friday in the Presidio for the groundbreaking of the world's first international center aimed at eliminating violence against women and children.

A ceremony this afternoon for the $18.2 million Family Violence Prevention Fund center, located at the Main Post of the former military base, drew House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, actresses Nicole Kidman and Joan Chen, Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre and Jeff Bleich, the U.S. ambassador to Australia, among others.

Esta Soler, founder and president of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, said the site would offer a place for policy makers, activists, doctors and diplomats to try to address the global problems of domestic violence, rape and child abuse.

Soler called it "a global hub for bringing the best minds around the world together to come up with the best strategies."

She hopes to open its doors in 2012.

Soler, who has been working in San Francisco on the issue for decades, said she thought it fitting that the former military base would be transformed into "a catalyst for peace."

Pelosi agreed, noting the center was the first initiative of its kind to be on the Main Post grounds of the Presidio, part of its change from "post to park."

Pelosi recalled her experience visiting refugee camps in Darfur where violence against women and children, including kidnapping, rape and killing, is far too common, she said.

"And these children, 4 or 5 years old, had already seen too much," Pelosi said.

"We have to see the victims, and we have to see the perpetrators," said Kidman, ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women. "We have to face them."

"This is action. This is San Francisco showing what they can do," Kidman said. "This is the place where it begins."

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