Each October, we mark Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month to recognize the tens of millions of people who have been affected by intimate partner violence and to reaffirm our commitment to supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable. The Biden-Harris Administration has made significant progress in preventing and responding to gender-based violence:
- Continued Implementation of the Violence Against Women Act. Since he first championed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, President Biden has worked across the aisle to reauthorize and strengthen this critical legislation. Most recently, President Biden signed the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022 and secured the highest-ever funding level for VAWA implementation. In addition to the steps the Biden-Harris Administration has already taken to implement this critical law, the Department for Housing and Urban Development recently awarded $10 million to bolster technical assistance for HUD grantees that are implementing the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022, which included several updates that have important implications for survivors seeking safe housing. For example, the new law changed the definition of homelessness to include people fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, thereby increasing the services that survivors are able to access.
- Support for Survivors of Image-Based Sexual Abuse. The Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) bolstered their efforts to combat technology-facilitated gender-based violence by funding the first-ever national helpline for survivors of image-based sexual abuse, operated by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. The helpline will significantly expand support to survivors of online harassment and abuse, meeting the rising need for services related to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. This new funding was highlighted in a letter from President Biden and remarks from Assistant to the President and Director of the Gender Policy Council Jennifer Klein at this year’s National Domestic Violence Hotline Conference last month. OVC also invested nearly $1.5 million under the Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime solicitation, which includes a toolkit to combat technology-facilitated intimate partner violence that can be implemented in tech clinics across the country.
- Landmark Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence Promotes Safeguards Against Image-Based Sexual Abuse. On October 30, President Biden issued an historic Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Executive Order directs the establishment of new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more. Consistent with the President and Vice President’s long-standing commitment to preventing and addressing gender-based violence in all its forms, the Executive Order directs the Office of Management and Budget to consider the risks of deepfake image-based sexual abuse of adults and children in their its forthcoming AI procurement guidance , and directs a report and guidelines to promote widespread adoption of industry standards to prevent AI systems from generating abuse material.
- Enhancing the Military Response to Domestic Violence. The Department of Defense continues to implement military justice reform through the Executive Order signed by President Biden in July that transferred key decision-making authorities from commanders to specialized, independent military prosecutors for domestic violence, sexual assault, murder, and other serious offenses. To discuss the impact of these reforms on domestic violence in the military, Jennifer Klein, Assistant to the President and Director of the Gender Policy Council, and Cara Abercrombie, Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council, hosted an expert roundtable.
- Continued Implementation of the U.S. National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. The White House Gender Policy Council convened the Federal Gender-Based Violence Interagency Working Group to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to support survivors and their communities through implementation of the first-ever U.S. National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. The National Plan advances a whole-of-government, multi-sectoral, coordinated approach to ending gender-based violence wherever it occurs in the United States. At the meeting, Senior Administration officials shared examples of new actions their agencies are taking to implement the National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, including:
- Developing and Implementing Early Intervention Efforts. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded eight awards for more than $4 million to help communities develop, enhance, or expand early intervention programs and treatment services for girls who are involved in the juvenile justice system.
- Preventing and Addressing Online Child Sexual Exploitation. In partnership with the government of Australia, the Department of Homeland Security launched the U.S.-Australia Joint Council on Combatting Online Child Sexual Exploitation, which will oversee and implement a trauma-informed and victim- and survivor-centered plan that brings together experts across our governments to focus on coordinating law enforcement efforts to hold offenders accountable in the Indo-Pacific region; and sharing promising policy and practices, including for improving the design of digital technologies to reduce risk for exploitation and abuse.
- Conducting Sexual Violence Prevention Research. The Department of Health and Human Services funded four rigorous evaluations of prevention approaches that have been implemented by the Rape Prevention and Education Program (RPE). Each project involves collaborations between academic researchers and RPE-funded organizations to advance the field of sexual violence prevention.
- Understanding the Root Causes of Gender-Based Violence. The National Institute of Justice awarded nearly $2 million to the National Opinion Research Center for “Positive Adolescent Interpersonal Relationships (PAIR): A Community-Based STRiV Study.” Through partnerships with community-based organizations, the PAIR Study will help identify factors – whether individual, interpersonal, community, or societal – that may help protect young people from abusive relationships.
Even as we celebrate these accomplishments, there is much work to be done—and the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to transforming the country and building a Nation where all people live free from violence.