By: Rosie Hidalgo and Cailin Crockett
White House Gender Policy Council
Every October, we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, an opportunity to celebrate progress in the movement to end domestic violence, promote healthy, violence-free relationships, and support survivors. Yet, as President Biden has stated, “while our Nation has made significant progress in addressing domestic violence” it “remains all too common in America.”
Addressing and preventing domestic violence, and all forms of gender-based violence, continues to be a significant priority for President Biden, as it has been since he originally authored and championed the Violence Against Women Act as a Senator nearly three decades ago. Over the past year, his Administration has maintained a focus on ending gender-based violence as one of ten key strategic priorities to advance gender equity and equality both domestically and globally through the whole-of-government approach, laid out in the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which was released one year ago this month. We have advanced this priority across multiple domestic and foreign policy initiatives since, including:
- Renewing and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Earlier this year, the President signed into law the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022, critical legislation that expands access to safety and support for survivors and increases prevention efforts. The Administration is swiftly implementing the new and strengthened VAWA, including targeted actions to support Native survivors, LGBTQI+ survivors, survivors of technology-facilitated abuse, and those in marginalized or underserved communities, including rural communities.
- Advancing efforts to prevent domestic violence homicides and gun violence through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which helps narrow as the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns out of the hands of dating partners convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. The BSCA also invests $250 million in community-based violence intervention programs, and provides $750 million for states to implement crisis interventions, such as extreme risk protection orders (also known as “red flag laws”).
- Implementing historic military justice reform, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act the President signed into law last year, which shifted legal decisions from commanders to independent, specialized prosecutors in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and other serious crimes. and included other core recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, as called for by President Biden.
- Combatting Online Harassment and Abuse, through the launch of the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse. The Task Force is now developing a federal blueprint for action focused on advancing concrete actions to address technology-facilitated gender-based violence, support survivors, promote accountability, and improve prevention efforts. Earlier this month, on International Day of the Girl, the White House held a roundtable with youth survivors of online harassment and abuse and dating violence to hear their recommendations for the Task Force. The United States also launched the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to advance efforts to tackle this scourge in concert with partner countries.
- Strengthening regional leadership on addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls by hosting the Fourth Convening of the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls, with the governments of Mexico and Canada, along with Indigenous women leaders from all three countries. The Trilateral Working Group provided a platform to improve and reaffirm our respective national and regional commitments to strengthen access to justice, advance Indigenous women’s leadership, and prevent and respond to gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls in all their diversity, including Two-Spirit and gender-diverse individuals.
- Enhancing survivors’ economic security and expanding options for survivors of economic abuse through the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act (JCLS), which the President signed into law last month. Congress had previously eliminated the joint consolidated program, which allowed for married couples to combine their student loan debt, but they had not set in place a mechanism to sever existing joint loans in the case of domestic violence or economic abuse, which will now be possible as a result of this legislation.
The Administration also continues to implement the nearly $1 billion in supplemental funding for domestic violence and sexual assault service providers through the American Rescue Plan in response to the pandemic to increase access to services and support for survivors and their children. And the Administration urges Congress to pass the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act (FVPSA), which will expand investments in domestic violence prevention efforts and strengthen existing services, while also expanding access to resources and services to Tribes and tribal coalitions, culturally-specific programs, and other underserved communities. The legislation also provides vital funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in September and marked its 6 millionth contact earlier this year. President Biden provided a special video message to commemorate the momentous occasion.
Although October is coming to a close, the Gender Policy Council—and the entire Biden-Harris Administration—will continue to press forward in our commitment to end domestic violence, centering the courage, resilience, and leadership of survivors. Through the forthcoming National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, as well as the update to the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, the Administration will advance a vision for a future free from gender-based violence and outline the steps needed to achieve this goal both at home and abroad. These efforts will take a broad, holistic, evidence-informed approach to preventing and addressing gender-based violence in all of its forms, wherever it occurs—whether at home, in school, online or in the workplace.
As President Biden said in his Proclamation marking the beginning of National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month: “We can express our gratitude to the remarkable people and organizations that offer care and critical services to survivors of domestic violence, and we must remain committed to building a better world where all people can feel safe and respected and live free from abuse.”