What Has Biden Done? The Violence Against Women Act Was a Big … Deal

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Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law in 1994. His action was the culmination of years of work on the part of then-Senator Joe Biden.

Biden, who chaired Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the Act in 1990, which he co-authored with New York Rep. Louise Slaughter. The legislation was supported by many women’s rights groups and also backed by Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

According to Senator Biden, he began work on the bill because he wanted to alter national attitudes toward violence against women and give women who were victims of violence legal protections and recourse against perpetrators. He said he was particularly appalled that marital rape was not taken seriously. The very act of introducing the legislation brought the issue of domestic violence front and center on the national stage and began reshaping opinions about the treatment of domestic violence in the United States.

Before the Act passed, for example, domestic abusers could avoid prosecution by crossing state lines. Police officers generally were not encouraged to intervene in domestic violence cases because violence in the household was considered a family issue.

According to Georgetown Constitutional Law Professor, Victoria Nourse, courts did not take rape seriously. Norse told Time, “Judges were saying things like, you wore a short skirt, you can’t be raped. You’ve been raped before, you can’t be raped again. Just ridiculous stuff…”

Experts credit VAWA with not only dramatically shifting the national conversation but also significantly decreasing the rate of domestic violence. Studies show the rate of partner violence dropped 64 percent between 1993 and 2010.

On the 20th anniversary of the Law’s passage, Joe Biden penned an op-ed in which he called the bill his “proudest legislative accomplishment.” Biden wrote, “Abuse is violent and ugly and today there is rightful public outrage over it. It matters that the American people have sent a clear message: you’re a coward for raising a hand to a woman or child — and you’re complicit if you fail to condemn it.”

BONUS FACT: The Violence Against Women Act has lapsed, thanks to the Republican-controlled Senate. The Act has been consistently renewed over the last 26 years, and was once again renewed by the House in 2019. McConnell has blocked the reauthorization over the closing of the so-called boyfriend loophole, which would prevent abusive partners from purchasing firearms. Because pleasing the NRA is more important than protecting women.

Fact Quotes

Lawyers who helped to draft the bill say that part of the reason the legislation has been so successful is that it has helped to create a profound cultural change, and has encouraged Americans to take gender-based violence seriously.


“Each time VAWA has been reauthorized, with the support of strong leadership and the tireless work of advocates, Congress came together with bipartisan majorities to strengthen and expand protections. But President Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have decided to block the most recent VAWA reauthorization, because it would close the so-called ‘boyfriend loophole’ and prevent abusive dating partners from buying a gun,” Biden said in a statement.

The Hill



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