1 is 2 Many Blog

  • Strengthening the Violence Against Women Act

    This week, the Senate will consider bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID),  that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). First authored by then-Senator Biden in 1994, VAWA provides funding to states and local communities to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  VAWA supports specialized law enforcement units to investigate these crimes and helps prosecutors get dangerous offenders off the streets. Since the passage of the act, annual incidents of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent. 

    While tremendous progress has been made, violence is still a significant problem facing women, men, families, and communities.  On average, 3 women a day die as a result of domestic violence. The hidden crime of stalking affects 1 in 6 women and sexual assault remains the most underreported violent crime in the country. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives.  The Leahy-Crapo bill to reauthorize VAWA addresses today’s most pressing issues and builds on what we have learned over the past 17 years.  We must continue moving forward to reduce violence against all women. 

    Native American women suffer from violent crime at some of the highest rates in the United States. One regional survey conducted by University of Oklahoma researchers showed that nearly three out of five Native American women had been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners.  In addition, a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) study found that 46 percent of Native American women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Tribal leaders say there are countless more victims of domestic violence and sexual assault whose stories may never be told. 

    With non-Indians constituting more than 76 percent of the overall population living on reservations and other Indian lands, interracial dating and marriage are common, and many of the abusers of Native American women are non-Indian men.  Too often, non-Indian men who batter their Indian wives and girlfriends go unpunished because tribes cannot prosecute non-Indians, even if the offender lives on the reservation and is married to a tribal member, and because Federal law‐enforcement resources are hours away from reservations and stretched thin.  

  • Combating Sexual Assault in the United States Military

    Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in the United States. One in five women report having been raped in their lifetimes, and many experience ongoing physical and emotional trauma related to this crime. The Obama Administration has taken on this serious issue, and has announced new initiatives across the federal government to respond to and prevent sexual assault.

    Nowhere is our responsibility greater than in the military. Women and men who step forward to serve our country must be protected from this devastating crime, and offenders must be held appropriately accountable. Secretary Panetta has said loud and clear that sexual assault has no place in the United States military. Together with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  General Dempsey, the Secretary is taking important steps toward achieving this vision.  

    On April 20, Secretary Panetta issued a directive that will require certain sexual assault complaints to be elevated to more senior levels of command.  This significant change means that more experienced commanders will be making the initial disposition decisions for these cases.  Specifically, the officers handling these cases will be at least in the grade of 0-6, meaning at least a colonel in the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force; a captain in the Navy, and must possess at least special court martial convening authority.  This new policy underscores the gravity of these crimes and may give victims greater confidence to come forward.

  • By the Numbers: 1 in 3

    While 1 in 3 women in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some time in their lives, domestic violence doesn’t stay within the four walls of someone’s home. It often spills over in to the workplace and can affect the safety and productivity of employees. Victims are often harassed at work or distracted from their jobs because of the abuse.

    Today, President Obama directed federal agencies to develop policies for addressing domestic violence in the federal workforce. These new policies will build on ongoing efforts of federal agencies to improve workplace safety, and outline steps employers can take to provide support and assistance to employees whose lives are affected by domestic violence.

  • The Next Step in Combatting the Spread of HIV/AIDS Among Women and Girls

    As the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, it is my honor to join Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, in announcing the next step in President Obama’s commitment to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst women and girls. Please read on for more details.

    There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, including more than 290,000 women.   Black and Hispanic  women account for nearly three-quarters of new HIV infections among women.  In July 2010, President Obama launched the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy to provide a coordinated national response to fight the epidemic, with the goals of reducing new infections, improving health outcomes, and decreasing HIV-related health disparities.  This past World AIDS Day, the President said that “When black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more."  President Obama was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a call to our partners—including government stakeholders at all levels, healthcare professionals, and HIV/AIDS service providers—to unite in an effort to usher in an “AIDS-free generation.” To reach this goal, it is clear we must address HIV among women, particularly among women of color.

    As directed in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, Federal agencies are collaborating in new ways.  We are embracing scientific findings to implement evidenced-based prevention methods in order to be more effective at preventing new HIV infections, and we are exploring new approaches to integrate prevention and care. As part of this ongoing collaborative approach, President Obama has issued a presidential memorandum establishing an inter-agency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. The President has asked Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Womenand Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, to serve as co-chairs.

  • Together We Must End Dating Violence

    Vice President Biden with Ann Burke at the Naval Observatory

    Vice President Biden with Ann Burke at a reception to mark the 17th anniversary of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act at the Naval Observatory, September 13th, 2012 (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Over the past month, college newspapers across the country have run an op-ed penned by Vice President Biden in which he urges college students to take action to help put an end to dating violence and sexual assault on their campuses. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and Vice President Biden took the opportunity to remind students that dating violence is still a very real problem in our country. 

    The facts are clear: nearly one in five college women will be the victim of a sexual assault, and one in ten teens will be hurt by someone they are dating. As the Vice President wrote, these are not merely statistics, “these are the people you know: your roommates, your friends, your sisters, and your classmates.” 

    As the Vice President has often said, we all have an absolute obligation to try to stop abuse when we see it – no matter what. That’s why this Administration is working so hard to confront the problem head on. 

    Last April, new standards were announced that make it clear that colleges are responsible for creating campus environments that refuse to tolerate dating violence. And in September, the Vice President launched the “1 is 2 Many” project – an effort to change attitudes that lead to violence and educate the public on the realities of abuse. 

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Violence Against Women Act

    On February 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Even though VAWA has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, the eight Republicans on the committee voted against this critical piece of legislation. Now the Act goes to the full Senate for consideration. 

    First authored by then Senator Biden in 1994, VAWA provides funding to states and local communities to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  VAWA supports specialized law enforcement units to investigate these crimes and helps prosecutors get dangerous offenders off the streets. VAWA also protects victims living in subsidized housing from being evicted after suffering domestic violence, supports training for health care providers, and brings help to victims in rural areas of the country.  The hallmark of VAWA is the coordinated community response, bringing different agencies together to create a seamless approach to combating violence. 

    One day’s look at the headlines tells us why we still need VAWA. Domestic violence often spills into streets, workplaces, and communities, and is estimated to cost our nation 8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs. This violence causes more than two million injuries each year, three deaths each day, and untold amounts of suffering to women. The hidden crime of stalking affects 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men, and sexual assault remains the most underreported violent crime in the country. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives, most before the age of 18. 

    It's fitting that the Senate Judiciary Committee took up VAWA during Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, because teens and young adults are at THE highest risk for this violence. The proposed legislation provides funding to schools, youth groups, and victim service agencies to develop new strategies to intervene in and prevent dating violence and sexual assault. If we can stop violence in this generation, some day we won’t need these services. But today, the need is still urgent. We need the full Senate to approve VAWA reauthorization and for Congress to send this legislation to President Obama to sign into law this year.