Last night, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a reception at the U.S. Naval Observatory honoring the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). A range of groups that support the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault joined the gathering to celebrate the accomplishments of what the Vice President calls his greatest legislative achievement in his 36 years in the Senate.
"You help so many women step out of the darkness; you help so many young girls expect a different future, expect a different treatment, demand a different way of being dealt with by young men. You've inspired them to speak out against the once unspeakable tyranny of domestic violence," the Vice President said in applauding the many who have fought for awareness over the years.
(Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a reception commemorating the 15th anniversary of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, at the Naval Observatory, Tuesday, September 29, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.)
Dr. Biden added, "As I have traveled around this country, I have heard so many heart-breaking stories about the impact of domestic violence on women and their families. But I have also heard how much the passage of the Violence Against Women Act has meant to those who have suffered from domestic violence."
The Act, passed in 1994, provides federal funding for courts, law enforcement and specialized prosecutors, shelters that house battered women, rape crisis centers, and a national hotline for victims. It also increased confidentiality protection for victims and led to a unit in the Department of Justice solely focused on the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since then, domestic violence rates have fallen significantly, largely thanks to this landmark legislation.
Yet, there is still much work left to do. "We cannot let this slip from the consciousness," the Vice President said. And we won’t. Our next objective is to reauthorize the original Violence Against Women Act in 2011 and to take steps to address the terrible violence faced by women around the world. In a time of economic stress for many in our country - periods when victims become more isolated and violence tends to escalate - our national campaign to increase awareness cannot let up. This is an issue that affects all men, women, and children in this country and we have to continue to change the culture surrounding domestic abuse and sexual assault.
On a night on which we toasted the passage of an historic act, we look to the future confident that more can and will be done to curb the abuse and actually end domestic violence and sexual assault before it starts. We have an opportunity to ensure that all girls grow up without the scars of violence and abuse, and that all women are free to realize their true potential. As the Vice President put it, "We stand committed."
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Adviser on Violence Against Women