Issue Position: Domestic Violence
"I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I've crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate. Indeed, the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 was the beginning of a historic commitment to women and children victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. Our nation has been rewarded for this commitment. Since the Act's passage in 1994, domestic violence has dropped by almost 50%, incidents of rape are down by 60%, and the number of women killed by an abusive husband or boyfriend is down by 22%. Today, more than half of all rape victims are stepping forward to report the crime. And since we passed the Act in 1994 over a million women have found justice in our courtrooms and obtained domestic violence protective orders." - Senator Joe Biden
THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
Ending Violence Against Women: Senator Biden wrote the ground-breaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the 1990s that set the national agenda on criminalizing violence against women and holding batterers truly accountable. It encouraged states to set up coordinated community responses to domestic violence and rape; was the catalyst for passage of hundreds of state laws prohibiting family violence; and provided resources to set up shelters so battered women abused by husbands and boyfriends had a place to go. The law also established the national hotline that over 1.5 million abused women have called for help. By empowering women to make changes in their lives, and by training police and prosecutors to arrest and convict abusive husbands instead of telling them to take a walk around the block, domestic violence is down 50 percent and rape is down 60 percent nationwide.
Each time the Senator renewed the Act - in 2000 and 2005 - he pushed for new initiatives. In 2000, the Act was attached to ground-breaking laws on human trafficking - crimes where over 80% of the victims are women. In 2005, the Violence Against Women Act tackled issues like domestic violence in public housing and treating children witnesses of family violence. Click here for more information on the Violence Against Women Act of 2005.
CRITICAL RESOURCES FOR STATES AND TOWNS
Supporting States and Local Efforts: Tremendous progress has been made by communities taking the Violence Against Women Act's laws and programs and turning them into real action, change, and support for families wracked by domestic violence and sexual assault. The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 contains over 40 programs to be administered by either the Department of Justice or the Department of Health and Human Services. These programs range from policies to encourage the arrest and prosecution of abusers, to victims' services like shelters, to education that can prevent violence against women from happening in the first place. Since fiscal year 1995 to date, over $4 billion dollars have been appropriated for the programs created by the Violence Against Women Act. In Delaware alone, the Office on Violence Against Women has overseen 21 grant awards totaling $9.5 million. Delaware has passed far-reaching domestic violence laws and supported critical victim services. To learn more, click here to reach the Delaware's Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
KEEPING THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ACCOUNTABLE
An Independent Violence Against Women Office: To ensure that federal Department of Justice remains dedicated to tackling domestic violence and sexual assault crimes, Senator Biden fought tenaciously for an independent and empowered federal Office on Violence Against Women. The Senator's law requires that the Director be nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate and report directly to the Attorney General.
Because of the Senator's initiative, the Office's leadership and agenda cannot be pushed to the sidelines nor marginalized as one of many offices in a large bureaucracy. Instead, this law gives the Violence Against Women Office the foundation and roots it deserves. It is a separate and distinct office within the Department of Justice with a Director who answers only to the Attorney General.
THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: One of the most important pieces of the Violence Against Women Act is the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE and http://www.ndvh.org/). It answers approximately 16,000 calls per month, almost 500 calls daily. Since answering its first call in February, 1996, call volume has increased by over 133%. Over the years, as the number of calls soared, the Hotline equipment wasn't able to handle them all. So Senator Biden started an innovative public/private partnership, the Connections Campaign. He turned to America's leading technology and telecommunications companies, asking them to transform the Hotline into a 21st century call center - something they would want in their own businesses. The Connections Campaign raised over $4 million public and private resources and as a result, the Hotline now is as sophisticated as the back office in any leading businesses. There are 70 new desktop computers; paper phone books and atlases have been replaced by mapping software so they can quickly connect the caller to the closest shelters or police stations.
100,000 VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOR BATTERED WOMEN
Representing Battered Women: Domestic violence remains a reality for one out of four women in our country. Experts agree a key to ending domestic violence is meaningful access to the justice system. Often stopping the violence hinges on a victim's ability to obtain effective protection orders, initiate separation proceedings or design safe child custody. Yet thousands of victims of domestic violence go without representation every day in this country. At best, less than 1 out of 5 low-income victims ever see a lawyer.
There is a wealth of untapped resources in this country - lawyers who want to volunteer. Senator Biden's National Domestic Violence Volunteer Act would harness the skills, enthusiasm and dedication of these lawyers and infuse 100,000 new volunteer lawyers into the justice system to represent domestic violence victims. To enlist, train and place lawyers, the Act creates a new, electronic National Domestic Violence Attorney Network and Referral Project to be managed by the American Bar Association with the help of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and statewide legal coordinators.