VP Biden Comments on Rape: 'Even One Case is Too Many'

September 9th was the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA.

Vice President Joe Biden, who as a United States Senator was one of the original sponsors of the law (and who has been a strong proponent of its reauthorization and expansion), spoke about the anniversary.

"Even just 20 years ago, few people wanted to talk about violence against women as a national epidemic, let alone something to do something about. No one even back then denied that kicking your wife in the stomach, or smashing her in the face, or pushing her down the stairs in public was repugnant. But our society basically turned a blind eye. And hardly anyone ever intervened, directly intervened – other than my father and a few other people I knew.

And no one – virtually no one – called it a crime. It was a family affair. It was a family affair. Laws – state laws when we attempted at a state or a federal level to design laws to prevent actions that were said that we now are celebrating, we were told, I was told, many of us were told that it would cause the disintegration of the family. That was the phrase used. It would cause the disintegration of the family.

"This was the ugliest form of violence that exists," he said, and though many wanted to see these crimes remain hidden in the shadows, the Vice President was committed to bringing them out into the light. "We had to let the nation know," he said, "because I was absolutely convinced – and remain absolutely convinced – in the basic decency of the American people, and that if they knew, they would begin to demand change."[...]

"We have so much more to do, because there's still sex bias that remains in the American criminal justice system in dealing with rape – stereotypes like she deserved it, she wore a short skirt, still taint prosecutions for rape and domestic violence. We're not going to succeed until America embraces the notion – my father's notion – that under no circumstance does a man ever have a right to raise a hand to a woman other than in self-defense – under no circumstance; that no means no, whether it's in a bedroom, or on the street, on in the back of a car – no means no.  Rape is rape – no exceptions.

Until we reach that point, we are not going to succeed.  But I believe that we can get to that point.  It's still imperfect, but the change is real that's happening."  

To pursue that progress, the Vice President announced that he will hold a Summit on Civil Rights and Equal Protection for Women in order to expand civil rights remedies in the law, because, as he said, "You can't talk about human rights and human dignity without talking about the right of every woman on the planet to be free from violence and free from fear."  

From the White House:

- FACT SHEET: Standing Up for Women's Civil Rights, 20 Years After VAWA

"The original law had three simple goals: make streets safer for women; make homes safer for women; and protect women's civil rights." - Senator Biden, 1990

"In its totality, the Violence Against Women Act was the first federal law that directly held violence against women as a violation of basic civil rights and fundamental human dignity." -Vice President Biden, 2013

Nearly 20 years ago, the Vice President first brought to national attention the need to end domestic violence and sexual assault by championing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Today, recognizing the 20th Anniversary of VAWA, the Vice President is taking two significant actions as part of the Administration's ongoing commitment to put an end to this senseless violence.

First, the Vice President is announcing a Summit on Civil Rights and Equal Protection for Women, which will bring together legal scholars, state and local prosecutors, and the Department of Justice to find a way to let survivors sue their abusers in federal court-which VAWA allowed but the Supreme Court rejected.

Second, the Vice President's office is releasing a comprehensive report detailing how far we've come since VAWA first passed while noting there are many challenges ahead.  

Twenty years after VAWA first became law, it has helped change a prevailing culture from a refusal to intervene to a responsibility to act - where violence against women is no longer accepted as a societal secret and where we all understand that one case is too many.  There are still many challenges to overcome, and this week's anniversary is a reminder of the important work ahead.


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