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Not Done Yet -- The US Violence Against Women Act Since 1994

Oct 05, 2009 — Categories: , ,

This month is the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the U.S.

Not Done Yet -- The US Violence Against Women Act Since 1994

Marie Fortune, Vice President Biden, Thom Chu

This month is the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the U.S. This act has made significant statutory changes and provided a funding stream to support efforts to end violence against women.

I was fortunate to be appointed to the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women in 1994 to support the work through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. So I saw up close how the money was made available to programs at the state and local levels. FaithTrust Institute along with other national programs was funded to provide technical assistance to those programs. Sens. Joe Biden and Orin Hatch wrote the first bill and have continued to insure that it be sustained. Biden is deeply committed to this cause.

On September 29, I attended a celebration of the anniversary at Vice President and Dr. Biden’s home in Washington. It was a gathering of many people who helped pass the original bill and subsequent reauthorizations as well as who now carry on the work.

When Vice President Biden spoke, he said that often people ask him why he cares so much about violence against women: was there someone in his life who had been victimized? No, he said. It was my father who felt very strongly that a man should never raise his hand to a woman or child, should never abuse his power towards anyone who is vulnerable. And, he said, his father frequently talked to him and his siblings about this as they were growing up. This was a lesson that clearly took root in Joe Biden even to this day.

He recalled the arguments against VAWA: “It wasn’t the business of government. It’s a family matter,” and reminded us that the government has a role to play alongside the rest of the community. Finally as he concluded his remarks, he said, “Now I don’t want to offend anyone, but, this is God’s work.” I smiled and said, “Amen to that.” When I spoke to him later, I thanked him for saying that. And assured him that it is indeed God’s work that we are all doing.

It’s not about baptizing secular efforts, especially for those of us who are Christian. It is about acknowledging that God’s work is sometimes accomplished by the good faith efforts of politicians who carry a passion for social change that addresses the suffering of people. Biden believes, along with everyone in that room, that we are talking about changing our culture, attitudes and practices regarding the acceptance of violence in the lives of women and children. And he is in a position to help make that happen – as a man, as a father, as a Senator and as Vice President.

So this is a guy who walks his talk; take a moment to celebrate this anniversary and then prepare because the Violence Against Women Act will be up for reauthorization again next year. Pay attention: I’m sure we will have to fight harder than ever to sustain this effort by our government to support the work that we do. Although this Act has enjoyed bipartisan support from the beginning, the backlash is still strong and the same old tired arguments will be made for why we don’t need to address violence against women. At the same time shelters and crisis lines are closing in multiple states due to budget cuts, 1.3 million women are assaulted annually and every day 3 more women are murdered by their intimate partners. We must continue to run this race because so many people are counting on it.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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