This week, President Biden signed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation passed by Congress as part of the Omnibus appropriations package.
One of the driving forces in President Biden’s career has been fighting abuses of power. This strength led her to draft and champion the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as a U.S. Senator, landmark legislation that was first passed in 1994. Over the course of nearly three decades that followed, he worked with members of Congress from both parties to pass legislation. to renew and strengthen VAWA three times: in 2000, 2005 and 2013. Each time, he worked to expand access to safety and support for all survivors and increase prevention efforts. Preventing and responding to gender-based violence wherever it occurs and in all its forms has remained a cornerstone of the President’s career in public service – from reauthorizing VAWA to a nationwide campaign against assaults sexual abuse on campus to reforms aimed at combating sexual assault and harassment in the military.
Although incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault have declined significantly since VAWA came into force – and efforts to increase access to services, healing and justice for survivors have improved with each iteration of VAWA – there is still a lot to do.
The reauthorization of VAWA in 2022 reinforces this historic law, in particular by:
- Reauthorize all current VAWA grant programs through 2027 and, in many cases, increase authorization levels.
- Expand the special criminal jurisdiction of tribal courts to cover non-indigenous perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, harassment, sex trafficking, and assaults against tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands ; and supporting the development of a pilot project to improve access to safety for survivors in Alaska Native villages.
- Increase services and support for survivors from underserved and marginalized communities, including for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and harassment; fund community-based, survivor-centered restorative practice services; and increase support for culturally appropriate services and services in rural communities.
- Establish a federal civil cause of action for people whose intimate visual images are leaked without their consent, allowing a victim to recover damages and legal costs; the creation of a new National Resource Center on cybercrimes against individuals; and support state, tribal and local government efforts to prevent and prosecute cybercrimes, including cyberstalking and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
- Improve prevention and response to sexual violence, including through increased support for the rape prevention and education program and the sexual assault services program; extension of prevention education for students in higher education institutions; and the enactment of the Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act, which requires state victim compensation programs to allow sexual assault survivors to seek compensation without being unfairly penalized due to rape kit backlogs.
- Strengthen the application of evidence-based practices by law enforcement to respond to gender-based violence, including by promoting the use of victim-centred and trauma-informed training and enhancing harm reduction initiatives. homicides.
- Improve the health system response to domestic violence and sexual assault, including through enhanced training for sexual assault forensic examiners.
- Update the SMART prevention program and the CHOOSE Youth program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to domestic violence, and engage men in violence prevention.
- Enact the National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) Denial Notification Act to assist state law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting cases against those legally prohibited from purchasing firearms. fire who attempt to do so.
Over the past year, the Biden-Harris administration has taken significant steps to prevent and respond to gender-based violence at home and abroad:
- Increased funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services. Realized $1 billion in additional funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) in response to the pandemic, including $49.5 million for culturally specific community organizations that help survivors from historically marginalized communities access the services and support they need. ARP has also provided approximately 70,000 housing choice vouchers to local public housing authorities to assist individuals and families, including those fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, l sexual assault, harassment or human trafficking.
- Reformed the military justice system to address sexual assault, harassment, and related crimes. National Defense Authorization Act, which included sweeping reforms to the military justice system—the largest since the Uniform Code of Military Justice was created more than seventy years ago—signed and implemented of the President’s campaign promise to combat the scourge of sexual assault in our armed forces. In conjunction with the Executive Order on Military Justice Reform, this landmark bipartisan law adopts key recommendations from the Independent Sexual Assault Review Commission, as requested by President Biden, and fundamentally changes the way the military prosecutes and investigates sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other serious crimes, and increases prevention initiatives and support for survivors.
- End of forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment. Enactment of the Ending Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Forced Arbitration Act of 2021 – bipartisan legislation that empowers survivors of sexual assault and harassment by giving them the choice to go to court instead of being forced into arbitration.
- Directed action to protect students from sexual assault on campus. Directed the Department of Education to review Title IX regulations and other agency actions to ensure that all students enjoy an educational environment free from gender discrimination. The Department is developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking currently under review that will address the need to protect students who experience sexual assault on campus while treating all students fairly.
- Increased resources for survivors of crime, including gender-based violence. Signed into law the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Amendments, which passed Congress with strong bipartisan support and expand the allocation of resources for the Victims of Crime Assistance Fund criminals. This has already resulted in an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars in non-taxpayer funding for essential and lifesaving services to victims of crime across the country, including survivors of gender-based violence.
- Led a multinational effort to combat online harassment and abuse. Launch of the Global Partnership for Action against Online Gender-Based Harassment and Abuse at the 2022 meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in collaboration with the governments of Denmark, Australia, UK and Sweden. This multinational initiative will align countries, international organizations and civil society to better prioritize, understand and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence.
- Focus on the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people, including gender-based violence. Issued an executive order directing the Departments of Justice, Interior, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services to create a strategy to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and to combat the epidemic of disappearances or killings of Indigenous people, which disproportionately affects Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQI+ people; the Department of the Interior created the Missing and Murderer Unit to prosecute missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- Strengthened regional leadership on violence against Indigenous women and girls. Renewed U.S. leadership and participation in the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls with the governments of Mexico and Canada. The White House will host the fourth meeting of the Trilateral Task Force this summer to enhance and reaffirm our respective national and regional commitments to prevent and respond to violence against Indigenous women and girls through increased access to justice and services. of prevention.
On International Women’s Day in 2021, President Biden signed an executive order creating the White House Gender Policy Council and calling for the development of the first-ever national action plan to government-wide initiative to end gender-based violence, as well as an update to the 2016 United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Worldwide. These strategies will provide a roadmap to guide the Biden-Harris administration’s whole-of-government efforts to end gender-based violence and, in doing so, create a society where survivors are supported and everyone can live safe. abuses.