Joe Biden’s campaign has released the “Biden Plan to End Violence Against Women.” Not surprisingly, it is a rehashing of some of the most controversial and misguided elements of proposed reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, a 1994 law that Biden originally sponsored.
Biden has never been shy about trumpeting his involvement with the Violence Against Women Act and its subsequent expansion. Unlike the act’s original passage, though, its expansion has been partisan and controversial.
The Violence Against Women Act is reauthorized every five years and has become a political lightning rod that seems now to be more focused on delivering far-left political agenda items than looking out for survivors of violence.
Biden supports a version of the Violence Against Women Act from last year that was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California. He promises to advocate for this bill during his first 100 days in office if he wins the presidential election.
This version of the Violence Against Women Act is problematic for many reasons. The Biden-supported plan would require survivors of domestic violence to come together with those who abused them and work toward conflict resolution. This sort of alternative justice resolution may not be in the best interests of abuse victims, and there is extremely limited evidence of its effectiveness. The National District Attorneys Association raised specific concerns about supporting “alternative justice models,” citing concerns that this sort of mediation could revictimize the person who suffered abuse.
This problematic, partisan bill would also threaten the rights of gun owners, including survivors of violence who want to own guns for self-protection.
The Biden-endorsed Violence Against Women Act also fails to address new threats to young women and girls, such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, honor violence, and sex trafficking. Female genital mutilation refers to the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for nonmedical reasons, a practice that has no health benefits and brings lifelong physical and psychological consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about a half-million women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of mutilation in the United States.
In the Senate, there are leaders who have made it a priority to demand protection and safety for those at risk of female genital mutilation. The Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2019 is legislation that would fix the law to make female genital mutilation a federal crime under several circumstances. Biden has not offered support for this bill, and like many on the political Left, prioritizes political correctness over addressing real threats to women’s safety.
There is another version of the Violence Against Women Act, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (a Republican from Iowa), that is dubbed “The Survivor’s Bill.” The Survivor’s Bill provides a 10% increase in funding for shelters, hotlines, and other resources for survivors; triples the support for rape prevention and education above current levels; increases penalties for female genital mutilation; and recognizes sex trafficking as a form of sexual assault.
If Biden were truly interested in assisting victims of violence and not pandering to political interests, he would be happy to support the Survivor’s Bill. However, there is not a single mention of it on his campaign website. It is clear that Biden is playing the political games too often associated with the Violence Against Women Act. Biden is ready to support a leftist version of the law but not willing to acknowledge survivor-centered approaches put forward by those on the other side of the aisle. This partisan thinking doesn’t help those who need it most.
Biden’s Violence Against Women Act is not about survivors anymore. Instead, it’s the same old political ploy we see too often: lip service to women’s safety, while in reality, only using the law as a vessel for partisan policy.
Andi Bottner is a senior adviser to Independent Women’s Voice. Previously, she served at the Department of Justice as acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women.