Vice President Joe Biden hosted a gathering yesterday for women’s rights leaders yesterday to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. About 100 guests visited Biden’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, to celebrate achievements in addressing violence against women and to discuss new initiatives, reports the Associated Press. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and leaders from other groups including the National Women’s Law Center and the National Network to End Domestic Violence were among those in attendance.
Vice President Biden drafted the Violence Against Women Act while serving in the Senate. At yesterday’s event, he noted that intimate partner violence was considered a private problem at the time, not the “business of the government.” However, in recent years this view has shifted. Biden told the crowd that “You’ve helped so many women step out of the darkness. You’ve helped so many young girls expect a different future, expect different treatment,” Biden said, according to the Associated Press. He also referenced the International Violence Against Women Act as an important next step in addressing violence. The bill was first introduced into Congress in 2007 and has not yet passed.
The Violence Against Women Act changed the way the judicial system handles cases of intimate partner violence and increased the availability of public resources for victims. The act created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice and expanded training of police officers and prosecutors in domestic violence issues, among other provisions. The act also established funding for women’s shelters, rape crisis centers and a national hotline, according to United Press International.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that intimate partner violence rates have fallen by 50 percent since passage of VAWA. However, there are some indications that domestic violence is increasing as a result of the economic recession. Retha Fielding, spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told the Associated Press that the hotline is averaging about 1500 more calls a month this year than last, possibly because women facing financial strain see fewer avenues for escape from an abusive relationship.