As we wind down Women’s History Month, I have been reflecting back on all the changes in women’s lives over the past few decades. Most notably, violence against women has emerged as an important topic at the local, state, and national level. Domestic violence is no longer the hidden crime it once was, and, since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1993, intimate partner violence has declined by 53%. Because of the leadership of Vice President Biden, the Act transformed the community response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and staking. In spite of all our efforts, however, 1 in 4 women will still experience such violence at some time in their lives. Sexual assault continues to take a toll on women and girls, with young women age 16-24 being at the highest risk. Approximately 15.5 million children witness domestic violence every year, and the health-related costs of this violence are staggering: in the United States, costs exceed $5.8 billion per year.
Last fall, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced an unprecedented effort across the federal government to collaborate on new initiatives to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault. We are working to improve legal protections for victims, increase sexual assault arrests and prosecutions, and help survivors regain housing and economic stability. We are taking new steps to help children who witness violence, and to link their mothers with services. Through the Pregnancy Assistance Fund and Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, we are reaching out to women experiencing violence during pregnancy and after the birth of their child. Head Start programs are also training workers to reach parents of young children to intervene early and reduce rates of domestic violence and child abuse. Through efforts like these, we are able to curb and prevent violence before another generation of children grows up in abusive homes.
On December 21, 2010, President Obama signed the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, taking another step forward to reduce abuse. The FVPSA reauthorization funds nearly 1,700 shelters and service programs for victims of domestic violence and their children. FVPSA also supports the National Domestic Violence Hotline, whose staff and volunteers answer more than 23,000 calls for help each month.
We are also committed to reaching women most at risk for experiencing violence. One in three Native American women will be sexually assaulted, and President Obama has said that this fact is an assault on our national conscious that we can no longer ignore. Last summer the President signed the Tribal Law and Order Act stepping up the federal government’s response and bringing new resources to tribes to combat violence against women.
Through all of these initiatives, we are working towards the day when violence against women no longer exists. To learn more about Women in America, with regards to crime and violence, please consult our fact sheet.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women