At the risk of making this the Biden Pond, here’s another Joe Biden post.

After writing yesterday that Biden’s belief that Republicans will work with him was a fantasy, an old friend took me to task on Facebook, accusing me of leading a circular firing squad against the candidate. He added that I only “tear down” people who can win against Trump. I think that’s more than a little unfair: anyone who’s followed me here at the Pond (and previously at Booman Tribune, and on Facebook, and everywhere else my rants may be found) knows that I have no patience with purists. Here’s a fairly recent example of that impatience.

Getting back to my topic, I will concede that I’m pretty critical of Joe Biden, and why not? He’s got some dings in his legislative record, just like any other politician. But I also try to be fair, and yesterday I saw some truly cockamamie bullshit on the Twitter that needs to be addressed. Apparently Biden had a run-in with local activist who took him to task over his record on violence against women. It didn’t go so well.

Do I think Biden behaved like a shit during the Clarence Thomas hearings? I sure do. Do I think his apology to Anita Hill was way too late, more than few dollars short, and probably less than sincere? Yes. That is true. I also disagree with his personal stance on abortion, and think his reversal on the Hyde amendment was out of expediency (that’s really not an issue for me: I like politicians who listen to their constituents and change their minds).

But as someone who worked for several years in a human services agency that provided counseling and shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence, I find it ridiculous to argue that those fleeing an abuser “deserve better” than Joe Biden. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant of the facts or a liar. After all, it was Biden who, together with New York Democratic Representative Elizabeth Slaughter, wrote and shepherded through Congress the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which has been re-authorized year after year until the GOP shut down the government in 2018.

The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law (Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, H.R. 3355) signed as Pub.L. 103–322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994 (codified in part at 42 U.S.C. sections 13701 through 14040). The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.

VAWA was drafted by the office of Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and co-written by Democrat Louise Slaughter, the Representative from New York, with support from a broad coalition of advocacy groups.[1] The Act passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994, clearing the United States House of Representatives by a vote of 235–195 and the Senate by a vote of 61–38, although the following year House Republicans attempted to cut the Act’s funding.[2] In the 2000 Supreme Court case United States v. Morrison, a sharply divided Court struck down the VAWA provision allowing women the right to sue their attackers in federal court. By a 5–4 majority, the Court overturned the provision as exceeding the federal government’s powers under the Commerce Clause.[3][4]

VAWA was reauthorized by bipartisan majorities in Congress in 2000 and again in December 2005. The Act’s 2012 renewal was opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act’s protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas, but it was reauthorized in 2013, after a long legislative battle. As a result of the United States federal government shutdown of 2018–2019, the Violence Against Women Act expired on December 21, 2018. It was temporarily reinstated via a short-term spending bill on January 25, 2019, but expired again on February 15, 2019. The House of Representatives passed a bill reauthorizing VAWA in April 2019; the bill, which includes new provisions protecting transgender victims and banning individuals convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing firearms, has yet to be considered by the Senate as of April 11.

You can read the provisions of the act yourself, but here’s a synopsis of the provisions.

The Violence Against Women laws provide programs and services, including:

Federal rape shield law.[37]
Community violence prevention programs
Protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking
Funding for victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines
Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities
Programs and services for victims with disabilities
Legal aid for survivors of domestic violence

VAWA is an enormous accomplishment. Everyone at the agency I worked for -which by the way was led entirely by women and women of color- was deeply grateful for Biden’s leadership. It was something we’d always remember when our funding was renewed each year: on at least one occasion, I drafted a thank you letter to the Senator. If you can think of someone who has done more than Joe Biden to “protect assault survivors,” please let me know. I am genuinely curious, and will update accordingly.

On a related note, there are probably a lot of people who object to Biden’s finger-pointing. I agree. It’s totally rude, inappropriate, and not a good look for the guy.

On the other hand, imagine if you created a $1.6 billion dollar federal program that reduced incidents of domestic violence from approximately 2.1 million victimizations in 1994 to around 907,000 in 2010, according to a study published in The Journal of Women’s Health in 2014. Imagine that you had to fight tooth and nail to get it expanded and re-authorized a few years later. Imagine that your creation was now languishing in the Senate because of a jerk like Mitch McConnell. Now imagine some random person (this person’s name is nowhere on their Twitter feed, so let’s assume Biden didn’t know them from Adam either) told you “we deserve better?” Would you, perhaps, get a little testy? Might you even get a bit irritated?

I know I would. I might even shake my finger angrily at their ignorance.

There’s legitimate criticism about Joe Biden. But saying he hasn’t done enough to protect assault survivors ain’t it. You go tell that to the woman who came to our agency for help, after escaping from a basement where she had been chained to a radiator.

Lutheran Settlement House gave me my first grant writing job when I was desperately in need. If you want to help domestic violence survivors in Philly, they’re a great place.

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