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Friday, September 13, 2013

Vice President Biden Celebrates Violence Against Women Act With 'Biden Beach Walk'

Vice President Biden's efforts dedicated to bringing awareness to violence against women, and holding perpetrators accountable helped launched the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

The VAWA legislation is expected to do the following:

• Hold rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal "rape shield law," which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;

• mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;

• keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;

• increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;

• ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;

• providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.

Some see a flaw in this effort.  While the legislation does much to help protect the rights of civilians, it fails to mention protecting the rights of women in the military who also suffer from acts of violence often at the hands of their fellow officers, and even worse, high ranking military officials.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the prevalence of such acts and has brought attention to it on a national stage.

It is estimated that more than 100 women soldiers a year have been victimized by their male service members.  The number increases to include women who have not reported their assault.

Biden called members of the House "Neanderthals" for stalling the renewal of the act that now includes protections to immigrants, Native American women and members of the LGBT community.

We certainly don't want to call the Vice President the same for not mentioning the women who serve in the U.S. armed forces .

Related
Bidens 'Beach Walk' To Celebrate VAWA Act Anniversary

Here's a bit of color from White House pool reporter Jen Bendery (JenBen) of The Huffington Post on last evening's VAWA celebration hosted by the Bidens at their home.

Jen writes....

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

This year’s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reception is to commemorate the 19th anniversary of VAWA which was first signed into law in 1994.  Tonight will be the 4th VAWA reception the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden have hosted at the Naval Observatory.  On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the third reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law which  expanded protections for Native Americans and prohibits discrimination against LGBT victims. 

Reception in Honor of the Violence Against Women Act Anniversary
Hosted by the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The Vice President’s Residence, Naval Observatory

Speakers:

Dr. Jill Biden
Vice President Joe Biden

Guests:

Approximately 140 guests including senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, private sector partners, as well as leaders of the major national women’s, domestic violence, Tribes, and sexual assault advocacy organizations.

Menu:

MINIATURE SIRLOIN BURGERS
On brioche squares with cheddar cheese & sauce vert
SHRIMP ON GRITS
                With rémoulade
SPICY GRILLED CORN & CHICKEN SALAD
In tortilla cups
FIG & GOAT CHEESE
CALIFORNIA PIZZA
                With chèvre & sun-dried tomatoes on a cornmeal crust
ROASTED CHILE & JACK CHEESE QUESADILLAS
                With avocado & tomato salsa
ONE BITE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES
                Chocolate & vanilla cookies with vanilla ice cream
  
 
THE FULL REPORT

Packed into the front room of the Vice President's residence just before 7pm, Biden spoke for about half an hour to the crowd of several dozen people, most of whom played a role in making VAWA a reality.

The room was full of chatter as Biden was standing at the mic waiting to talk, so he turned around and let out a piercingly loud whistle, and the room went quiet. He talked about when he first came up with the idea for VAWA legislation in the early 1990s.

"I caused a lot of trouble because I just started writing," Biden said to laughs. "I'm serious. This isn't one of these cases, I didn't ask for staff help, I didn't ask for any help, I was so God darn-- gosh darn mad."

Biden said everyone in the room has helped to save other people's lives through VAWA -- "that's not hyperbole, that's a fact" -- and that they should look back on that reality with pride. He said he's traveled 800,000 miles as vice president (!), and that he's seen how VAWA has had an impact on other nations too.

"It's been "absolutely fascinating to see the ripple effect of this little old Act we passed 19 years ago," he said.

Biden talked about his days as a Delaware senator, working with police, prosecutors and corporations in his home state to try to change the culture of silence around domestic violence. Literally.

"I literally asked for a summit of all the judges in the state. And because I chaired the Judiciary Committee, they were worried they'd never be elevated," he said to laughs. "All kidding aside ... literally every judge in the state but one or two showed up. We laid out ... literally what we expected of them. And things began to change."

The vice president said he was "stunned" that House Republicans put up a months-long fight over reauthorizing VAWA earlier this year. Up until this Congress, VAWA reauthorization has been a routine, bipartisan process. This time around, House Republicans held up the bill for months over its new protections for Native American, immigrant and LGBT victims of abuse. The bill eventually passed in February.

"I'm going to say something outrageous," Biden said, with his aides in the room surely cringing. "I think I understand the Senate better than any man or women who's ever served in there, and I think I understand the House ... I was surprised this last time ... The idea we still had to fight? We had to fight to reauthorize?"

Biden blamed "this sort of Neanderthal crowd" in the House for stalling the legislation.

"Did you ever think we'd be fighting over, you know, 17, 18 years later to reauthorize this?" he asked, to audible "no's" in the audience. "Well, you know what? The thing they didn't like, they said we like it the way it is [without the new protections added in] -- believe me, they don't."

Biden recalled how some Republicans accused Democrats of trying to push the envelope too far on VAWA by adding protections for those three groups. He credited women in the Senate with keeping the pressure on Republicans to accept the changes.

"It makes a difference with women in the Senate," he said to applause. "It does. It does, man ... Because they go and look all the rest of those guys in the eye and say, 'Look. This is important to me.'"

The tribal provision in VAWA was arguably its biggest sticking point; some Republicans argued it wouldn't be constitutional to grant tribal courts the ability to prosecute domestic abusers who were non-Native but living on tribal lands with their spouses. Biden laughed off that argument.
"Constitutional violation? Yeah, come on!" he said to cheers.

As for GOP opposition to adding protections for LGBT victims of abuse, he said it's not that people are homophobic, but that they need to be educated on the subject.

Speaking of LGBT issues, he recalled an incident last year where he "went off script" in declaring his support for same-sex marriage – in the midst of a presidential election, and when President Obama hadn't yet gone there.

"I make no apologies on the issue of marriage," he said.

Biden had been talking for nearly 25 minutes now, and someone must have given him the signal to cut it off because he abruptly stopped and apologized for still talking

"I'm sorry to go on, but I'm so proud of you," he said to laughs. One woman shouted, "No!" "Keep going!" said someone else.

Alas, he wrapped up minutes later. He thanked the room for their years of work on VAWA and told them, with his voice just above a whisper, that there is "nothing, nothing, nothing I've ever been engaged in matters to me more that what you've made real."

Other notes: Jill Biden spoke briefly at the beginning, talked about visiting with women in various countries and being inspired by their strength and successes. Mood of the room was somewhat giddy. Waiters were walking around with glasses of wine and trays of sliced figs with a tiny piece of cheese on top. A handful of lawmakers were in attendance, including Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), along with his mother, Amy Klobuchar (D- Minn.), and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

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