Last Friday, President Obama signed the proclamation of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Here at the White House, we’ve already started commemorating this important month, recognizing the remarkable work being done to address domestic violence and the distance we still must travel to end it.
On September 22, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden opened their home for a night dedicated to ending violence against women. It was a night to mark the 16th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and to recommit ourselves to ending sexual and domestic violence. The event brought together groups from national organizations as well as groups of college students working on this issue on their campuses. Many students had the great opportunity to speak with the Vice President and Dr. Biden about what was going on in their lives and the lives of young people across the country.
The message was clear. Despite all we have accomplished since passing the Violence Against Women Act, there is a new generation of teens and college-age young people who are facing the threat of abuse all too often. Young women, ages 16-24, experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. The Vice President addressed the need for systemic change in the way that society values women. He said, “This is not just a problem of black eyes and broken bones, it’s a problem of attitudes.” In fact, a 2009 study of sixth-grade students found that 25% thought it was acceptable for boys to hit their girlfriends. These are attitudes we must change.
This is a generation that has grown up with the Internet. Social networking sites and text messaging have become the favored communication methods of the majority of American teens. The resources we provide victims of violence must keep up with the technological advances we have integrated into our daily lives. Some organizations are already doing this, like the Teen Dating Violence Helpline, which has a “chat” function that is answered by teens. We need to reach people where they are and get young women and girls the information they need.
“Our course of action needs to adapt, to change with the times if we are here to keep a promise we have made to our daughters and granddaughters: to end domestic violence and sexual abuse. Not to reduce it. To end it,” said the Vice President. We have come a long way since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and there is no better time to renew our pledge to stand up to those attitudes and end violence against women.
Throughout the month of October we will be updating the White House blog and Facebook page with regular updates on violence against women, so please stay tuned!
If you or someone you love has been affected by domestic or sexual violence, visit the Department of Health and Human Services violence against women website for resources. For more information about the Violence Against Women Act, visit the and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women