In September of this year, 2014, we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of “The Violence Against Women Act”. The fact sheet states that:
Under the leadership of then-Senator Joe Biden, Congress recognized the severity of violence against women and our need for a national strategy with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This landmark federal legislation’s comprehensive approach to violence against women combined tough new provisions to hold offenders accountable with programs to provide services for the victims of such violence.
In an interview on the Today Show, September 9, 2014, Tamron Hall discusses this ground-breaking legislation with Vice President Biden:
T.H. My focus has been on domestic violence and this week marks the twentieth anniversary of the federal Violence Against Women Act. Vice President Joe Biden introduced that legislation as a Senator and I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to talk with him about it. I started out by asking him about he disturbing video involving former NFL star Ray Rice.
TH: Today the headline is about Ray Rice, an NFL star. The NFL has suspended him indefinitely. The Ravens have fired him but this is after the video that was released with him knocking his wife out.
V.P: The NFL did the right thing whether it was for the right reasons or not. When the video came out they had no choice.
T.H.: When the meetings started twenty years ago to explore the epidemic of domestic violence there was low attendance. Even some of the domestic violence awareness groups at the time said this would never work.
V.P.: It was the women’s groups who didn’t stand up. It was the civil rights groups who didn’t stand up and there were so many laws on the books that made the presumption if somehow I raped you, if I abused you, you must have done something. It’s never, never, never, the woman’s fault. No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman!
“No” means “No” and when I started, that was my position twenty years ago but it was like, “Oh, that’s way too strong; “That’s too much”. The society didn’t want to pull this scab back. The one regret I have is that it’s called “domestic violence” as if it’s a domesticated cat. It is the most vicious form of violence there is – not only the physical scars but the psychological scars that are left. This whole culture for so long has put the onus on the woman. What were you wearing? What did you say?
What did you do to provoke? That is never the appropriate questions.
T.H.: When you looked at this culture change in your opp ed, you wrote “It’s hard for many people to fathom a day in which Americans ignored this violence or worse condoned it”.
V.P.: I’m very proud that the Congress of the United States passed the law but that’s not what changed things. What changed things was the change in the culture, making people aware. That’s what changed things. So you know the first reason the NFL responded in my view is that there’s so many women who are fans in this billion dollar industry. All of a sudden they said, wait a minute – he (Rice) got suspended for a couple games, “Whoa, that’s not enough!” Then we got a little more sensitized and then it was larger.
T.H.: What’s the next challenge?
V.P.: The next challenge is making sure ironically, we get the college presidents and colleges to understand that they have a responsibility for the safety of women on the campus. They have a responsibility to do what we know from great experience works. Bring in experts, give the woman the support that she needs – logical support, medical support and if need be, the legal support. Societal change is taking place. It takes time. But I really believe it’s taking root and we have an obligation to just keep pushing it.