1 is 2 Many Blog

  • Ending Violence Against Women: 19 Years of Progress

    Today marks the 19th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). As the original author and champion of VAWA, Vice President Biden brought national attention to what had too-long been a hidden problem. Then-Senator Biden held the first hearing on violence against women in the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1990 and introduced the first version of the Act that same year. After five years of hearings exposing the extent of rape, battering and stalking, the Act finally passed Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994.

    The initial VAWA legislation focused on changing law enforcement practices, improving the criminal justice system, and increasing access to shelters and services for victims. VAWA strengthened the federal criminal code, creating interstate crimes of domestic violence and doubling penalties for repeat sex offenders. And, VAWA sparked the passage of hundreds of laws at the state level to protect victims and hold offenders accountable. Since 1994, VAWA has sent billions of dollars to states and local communities to develop a coordinated response to domestic violence, dating violence sexual assault, and stalking.  

  • Addressing the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities

    Today we are proud to announce the release of the report by the President’s Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities. We have had the honor of serving as co-chairs of the interagency Federal Working Group since March 2012, when President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to address two overlapping challenges to the health and wellbeing of communities across the United States: the effects of HIV/AIDS, and the alarming rate at which women and girls experience violence.  

    More than 1 in 3 women in the United States has experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime; of these women, 69% report experiencing intimate partner violence at age 25 or younger, and 22% experience IPV for the first time as girls between the ages of 11 and 17 years.  Furthermore, approximately 280,000 women in the United States were living with HIV in 2009, with an estimated 15% unaware of their status.  Women account for 20% of new HIV infections in the United States, with over three-quarters of these new infections occurring among black and Latina women.

    By themselves, these statistics represent a compelling call to action, but the particular prevalence of intimate partner violence among women living with HIV further reinforces the need to address the intersection of HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls: 56% of women living with HIV, compared to the national prevalence of 36%, have experienced violence by an intimate partner.

    Given these data, the Working Group established by the Presidential Memorandum was tasked with developing actions for evidence-based, culturally relevant steps for Federal agencies to address the barriers to care and prevention for both HIV and violence. The culminating report charts a path forward to improve collaboration among agencies by leveraging federal resources in support of the health and wellbeing of women and girls, particularly those living with or at high-risk for HIV/AIDS and violence. The report’s action steps include: a focus on research and data collection to evaluate existing programs; ideas to develop new strategies for intervention; and expanded efforts to empower women and girls, as well as engage men and boys, in the prevention of violence and HIV risk.

  • Engaging Men to Say NO MORE to Violence Against Women and Girls

    This week, men across the country united to say NO MORE to violence against women and girls by engaging in online trainings, workshops, and community dialogues. These activities were led by NO MORE , an alliance of service providers, awareness organizations and supporters in the private sector that have come together to advance the movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault. The focus of NO MORE Week has been on the role of men as fathers and mentors in teaching our children about safe and healthy relationships built on equality, respect and trust. This includes having honest conversations about abuse and sexual assault. As President Obama has made clear, sexual assault is shameful and disgraceful and a crime—in the armed forces and everywhere. 

    We applaud the men who are taking a stand against abuse. This includes fathers, brothers, cousins, and friends who are supporting the women and girls in their lives and teaching young men about healthy relationships. Fathers can find specific resources on talking to sons about the importance of treating women with respect from the coalition of organizations that comprise NO MORE.

    Since his first day in office, President Obama has made combatting violence against women and girls a priority through multiple fronts.  The establishment of the first-ever White House Council on Women and Girls, and the appointment of the first White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, are just two examples. Here in the Office of the Vice President, we are continuing to champion Vice President Biden’s hard work to prevent and respond to domestic violence since he authored the first Violence Against Women Act in 1994.  Through the 1is2Many campaign, we are combatting dating violence, abuse, and sexual assault by raising awareness and providing practical tools, like the Circle of 6 iPhone app. But we know that we cannot do this work alone.  We know that so much of this hard work is being done by organizations of advocates like NO MORE, through its efforts to break through the silence surrounding these problems and to get parents, especially men, to talk about the issue.

  • Recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month

    Every April, we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, with rape in the headlines nearly every day, we speak out with even greater urgency to honor survivors and prevent sexual violence.

    We know the devastating statistics: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes. That’s 18 million women in this country who have been raped, and more than 1 million rapes that occur every year. The vast majority of these assaults occur when the victims are under the age of 25, and those under the age of 18 are at the greatest risk. These numbers are real, but they don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell of the broken trust when the attacker is a friend, a trusted colleague, or a family member.  They don’t tell of the suicidal feelings, the depression, or of the PTSD. And, they don’t tell of the courage survivors demonstrate when they work every day to put their lives back together.

    Across the federal government, we are working to support survivors and to prevent sexual violence. Last year, the Department of Justice modernized the definition of rape used to collect our nation’s crime statistics. This year, the Department of Justice is working with law enforcement agencies to implement this change and develop new guidelines for investigating sexual assault cases. The Office on Violence Against Women is funding training that will help communities address their backlogs of rape kits and improve prosecution of sexual assault crimes. The Office of Victims of Crime is supporting the development of a telemedicine center that will help bring sexual assault forensic exams to victims in rural and isolated communities.

  • Taking Action to Prevent Domestic Violence Homicide

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction Event

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction Event at the Montgomery County Executive Office Building in Rockville, MD, March 13, 2013. Also pictured are (from left) Janet Blackburn, Attorney General Eric Holder, Actress Mariska Hargitay, and Chief Jeff Spaulding, Chief of Police of the Westminster Police Department. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Yesterday I attended an event held by Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder focused on reducing domestic violence homicides. The Vice President spoke movingly about the changes that have occurred since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act but also reminded us that three women a day still die as a result of domestic violence. The Attorney General announced grants to twelve communities to screen victims for risk of homicide and create high risk teams to contain these dangerous offenders. He stressed the importance of understanding the warning signs that could indicate the risk of homicide is increasing and linking those victims with services. The Vice President was joined by Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, domestic violence advocate Janet Blackburn, and state and local officials from around Maryland.

    The event was held in Maryland to showcase the success of their model lethality assessment program. By screening victims for risk factors at crime scenes, in hospital emergency rooms, and in court and linking those most at risk with immediate crisis intervention services, Maryland has reduced its domestic violence homicide rate by 34% over the past five years. The Vice President also highlighted the work of Newburyport, Massachusetts, which launched a multi-disciplinary high risk team to identify and address the most dangerous cases of domestic violence in their community. Since beginning this approach in 2005, there have been no domestic violence homicides in Newburyport. The grants announced today will help communities around the country replicate these two successful models.

  • Communities Around the Country Mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month

    Today marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. From its humble origins in 1981 as a Day of Unity, this month has become a time to celebrate survivors, congratulate advocates, empower victims, and mourn the deaths of those lost to domestic violence. Around the country, communities are coming together this month to hold vigils, public awareness programs, survivor speak outs and town hall meetings.

    At the White House, we know that this month would not be possible without the lifelong dedication of those on the front lines. This month we honor the hotline workers who work the night shift to be there around the clock for victims in need. We pay tribute to the shelter workers who show that they care every day and the law enforcement officers who treat victims with dignity and respect when they knock on a door. We acknowledge the prosecutors who take on tough cases and the doctors who screen their patients for domestic violence. We appreciate the community-based organizations who reach people in their neighborhoods and the faith leaders who speak out about ending domestic violence.  Most of all, we honor the women, men, and children who have survived violence.

    Our commitment to survivors is reflected in the Obama Administration’s efforts to raise awareness and prevent domestic violence. Earlier this year, President Obama directed federal agencies to develop policies to assist victims of domestic violence in the federal workforce (read the Presidential memorandum). Through Vice President Biden’s 1 is 2 Many campaign, we released a public service announcement featuring professional athletes and other role models speaking out against dating violence (watch the PSA).

    Through the Affordable Care Act, women in many health plans will have access to domestic violence screening and counseling as a preventative service without co-payments, deductibles or other cost-sharing.  In an effort to save the lives of the three women a day who still die as a result of domestic violence, the Justice Department developed a new project to reduce domestic violence homicides through screening, linking victims with services and developing high-risk teams. Through these and other initiatives, we are doing our part to assist survivors and stop violence before it starts.