Biden Touts Plan to Curb Violence Against Women

(CN) – After storming through Nevada over the weekend, the Joe Biden campaign is gathering itself for the stretch run as the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses approach.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards on March 26, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

On Monday, the Biden campaign sought to concentrate focus on one of the former senator’s signature legislative achievements.

The Violence Against Women Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, but one of its principal authors was Biden, a fact he is eager to tout as the primary campaign season moves toward high gear.

To underscore the 25-year-old legislative achievement, Biden unveiled a plan Monday to address violence against women while castigating Senate majority Leader for failing to bring the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.

The Biden camp said one of Biden’s first priorities as president would be to ensure the reauthorization of the existing law and expansion to include other legal remedies such as expanding access to housing for domestic abuse victims, providing cash grants to survivors and preventing housing discrimination. Biden promises to allocate $5 billion to the program, according to the plan.

The Biden camp will launch an ad in Iowa featuring the emotional testimony of Chrissy Simmons, a New Hampshire resident who recounted a personal story of abuse and how temporary housing and financial assistance made a significant difference in her travail.

“Someone like myself who has gone through domestic violence has been physically and mentally broken down,” Simmons says in the ad.

She then recounts how she and her son would have been forced into homelessness to escape an abuser had it not been for the transitional housing provided in the federal law.

Several pundits credit the original act with increasing awareness around the issue of domestic violence, which was previously considered to be a private family matter, while leading to a cultural sea change in how violence against women was viewed.

The overall rate of domestic violence between habitable partners dropped by 64% from 1994 to 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Biden’s pitch to women in the Democratic Party is particularly important as they are arguably the most decisive demographic, representing 53% of registered voters and having voted at much higher rates than their male counterparts in the 2018 midterm elections, according to the Pew Research Center.

Biden has also faced difficulty fending off accusations of inappropriate touching that dogged his campaign at its inception.

Several women accused the former vice president of inappropriately kissing them or touching them at public events, making them uncomfortable. Biden attributed it to a hands-on empathetic approach but has since pledged to be more mindful about personal space.

In the meantime, those allegations have largely receded from view as Biden has enjoyed good polling numbers nationally and in several early states.

Biden’s plan also includes various initiatives to address sexual assault on college campuses, including a return to the 2011 Title IX guidance issued by the Obama administration which has since been rolled back by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Biden also proposes to dedicate $100 million to the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which seeks to provide training to law enforcement so it may avoid the type of neglect of rape kit procedures that hamper victim’s ability to seek justice.

The plan will dedicate $20 million training academies dedicated to teaching law enforcement about proper investigative techniques as it relates to sexual assault.

“There is still a striking lack of investigative training for law enforcement and prosecutors in units dedicated to sex crimes despite the extreme complexities of sexual assault investigations,” the Biden campaign said Monday.

Furthermore, Biden said his administration would seek to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women which experts believe continues unabated due to problems tracking statistics because of jurisdictional issues unique to tribal lands.

“Currently, the vast majority of federally recognized Tribes participate in the program, which severely hinders a nationally accurate count of violent crimes against Native women and girls,” the campaign said.

When the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized in 2013, a provision was added that allowed tribal courts to prosecute non-Native individuals who committed sexual assault on tribal lands, closing a previous loophole that allowed non-tribal members living off-reservation to commit acts against Native women with impunity.

Finally, the Biden camp said anti-immigration laws must be repealed to protect immigrant women, many of whom are particularly vulnerable to the depredations of sexual assault because of their unwillingness to contact authorities should they be victims of a crime.

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