Funding for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) must not be cut, as the first Trump administration budget has proposed. Domestic violence continues to be a public health epidemic that requires urgent attention and far more funding.
Domestic violence was first called “a public health problem of epidemic proportions” in 1985/91 by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
But although statistics show domestic violence in America has been reduced by over 50 percent during the 26 years since, Vice President Joe Biden again called domestic violence a “public health epidemic” that requires urgent attention, as recently as in 2015, at the National Conference On Health and Domestic Violence.
In 2016, speaking at the White House Summit on the United State of Women, Biden reiterated violence against women is an epidemic, and said the country is a long, long way from eradicating it.
The CDC estimates that one in three women will experience domestic violence during their lifetimes. As many as two million American women suffer injuries due to domestic violence annually, and 30% to 50% of female homicides are committed by a present or former partner. The majority of these murder victims had either been seen in emergency rooms for prior domestic violence-related injuries, or had reported these injuries to the police. It is estimated that 50 percent of all acute injuries and 21 percent of all injuries in women requiring urgent surgery are the result of partner abuse. Overall, upwards of 35% of all emergency room visits by women are the result of domestic violence, whether due to acute injury, problems during pregnancy, or stress-related complaints. An average of 3 women are murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.
Domestic violence is an issue that continues to require significant attention. Our society must redouble our efforts to confront this epidemic. History tells us activism can make a difference.
“We are serving record-breaking numbers of survivors,” she said. “We haven’t seen this in the history of our agency, and we’ve been around 43 years. So it really begs the question what is going on in our community around domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence. So we need more staff, we need more funding, and specifically, we need to do more in prevention, because we can’t keep (just) putting out the fires.”
Kristin Shrimplin, president and CEO of Women Helping Women
WHY WE REJECT “THE WALL”
One of the first actions the new administration took after entering office was to sign an executive order that advanced a plan to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on a massive wall along our southern border.
Now, let’s be clear: This wall is unnecessary, unpopular, and unpaid for. But even more importantly, it would be a physical embodiment of precisely the kind of fear and division that America must reject. It won’t serve to make us more secure, but instead cast a shadow of intolerance.
This is not who we are as a country or a people. Time and time again, when Americans have faced great challenges, we’ve relied on the diversity and innovation of the American people to build bridges to overcome them, not walls to cower behind. Now is not the time to stop. And now is not the time to give in to fear.
STANDING TOGETHER AGAINST UN-AMERICAN TRAVEL BANS
Within their first full week in the White House, the new administration issued an executive order that halted the U.S. refugee program and suspended citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the country. This was done under the guise of bolstering our national security, but the truth is, it only makes us less safe. Beyond playing right into the narrative of terrorists—who want people to believe the United States is at war with Islam—the order betrays the very core values this country has always held most dear.
Instituting these kind of discriminatory policies that target people based on their religion is simply un-American. Turning our backs on people desperately seeking refuge from tyranny and oppression is un-American. We know that the American people’s compassion, tolerance, and commitment to religious freedom make us stronger, not weaker.
We must continue to stand together to make our voices heard—add your name if you agree that the Trump administration’s budget doesn’t represent American values and you want to be involved in efforts to protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
ADD YOUR NAME
PROTECTING LAW-ABIDING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS
For the millions of undocumented immigrants living in America, we have entered a time of great concern and uncertainty. Already, the new administration has signed an order aimed at punishing sanctuary cities, whose policies protect law-abiding undocumented immigrants in order to increase public safety. And as other potential policy changes are discussed, the threat of deportation continues to haunt many of our friends and neighbors.
Among those whose future remains uncertain are hundreds of thousands of DREAMers—young people who were predominantly brought to America through no fault of their own and have long considered the United States their home. They were granted protections under President Obama’s DACA program, and many of them are already making huge contributions to our country, from becoming teachers to joining our armed forces.
We must fight to ensure that protections for these DREAMers are extended so they can continue to live and work in America. And more broadly, we should work to bring the millions of undocumented Americans out of the shadows and into the legal economy, rather than force them to hide in constant fear of being torn away from their families.
As Biden said, “Changing the laws is only the beginning. We have to change the national culture, a culture that condones and that often promotes violence against women.”
So the question is, “How do we change the culture?”
A culture of blaming the victim and offering leniency to the abuser still lives on.
“We will have succeeded when not a single woman who is violated ever, ever asks herself the question: ‘What did I do?’” Biden said. “We will have succeeded when not one man who raises a hand or takes a violent action against a woman is able to say without any credibility in his own mind, ‘She deserved it.’”
“All of you in this room who are doctors, nurses, researchers, social workers from all across the country, the fact that we are talking today about domestic violence as a public health epidemic is because of you,” he said. “We have come such a long way in our fight against this epidemic, but we have to keep making the case even stronger for prevention and intervention.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one-third of U.S. women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Domestic violence is associated with an array of health problems. In the short-term, physical violence can result in serious injuries or even death. At least one-third of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by male intimate partners. But studies have found that domestic violence has long-term health consequences as well.
“According to the CDC and other research, the chronic stress from domestic violence is toxic to the body,” Biden said, calling the science “compelling.” “It’s associated with long-term health problems like asthma, diabetes, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.”
Domestic violence has been a signature issue for Biden for decades. In 1990, he introduced the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law in 1994. Biden said when he first took on domestic violence, he was told he was going to break up families. “We knew that we had to bring this dirty little secret out into the public,” he said.
Throughout his speech Friday, the vice president emphasized that domestic violence survivors should not feel responsible for the violence they’ve suffered.
“It is never, never, never, never, never the victim’s fault,” he said to rousing applause.
Biden made his comments at the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence, where over 1,100 health care professionals met to discuss the relationship between domestic violence and health, and to learn about the latest research. The conference, organized by nonprofit Futures Without Violence, is held biennially.