This week, the Vice President took his commitment to ending violence against women to Peoria, Illinois where he spoke at the Center for the Prevention of Abuse’s Partners in Peace awards.
The 1100 member audience was mesmerized by the Vice President’s story about his early efforts to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The first VAWA hearing was held on June 20, 1990, and over the next four years then-Senator Biden held moving hearings on domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
“I found out that the problem was much deeper than I imagined,” Vice President Biden said, describing three obstacles that had to be overcome: the notion that domestic violence is a family matter; a culture that blames the victim; and the belief that if the woman didn’t report it, it must not have happened.
The Violence Against Women Act changed all that - sending resources to communities to improve the criminal justice response to abuse, creating tougher penalties for federal crimes, and bringing communities together to combat abuse. Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence has dropped by 58%.
Despite the progress being made in reducing domestic violence across the country, the Vice President noted that there are still 2 million injuries and 1400 deaths to women each year. During the Vice President’s remarks on Wednesday, he said that the White House is stepping up its efforts in this arena, announcing an unprecedented $730 million in the President’s proposed FY2011 budget to shore up services, help victims find housing and legal assistance, and make sure every call for help is answered.
The Vice President pledged to continue his commitment to change attitudes and to “free women from the oppressive cultural norm that causes them in any way to feel they are responsible for or contributed to their own abuse.”
As one audience member said after the speech, the Vice President was “such a fitting representative for this issue."
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women