White House

Biden honors anniversary of law to protect women

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the National Archives in Washington to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, Sept. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the National Archives in Washington to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, Sept. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP

In the wake of Ray Rice’s release this week from the Baltimore Ravens and suspension from the National Football League, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the ongoing conversation about ending domestic violence at a commemoration Tuesday of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.

While he did not mention the recent controversy _ the video released Monday of the running back knocking unconscious his then-fiance in a casino elevator _ Biden did passionately speak out against domestic violence.

“Under no circumstance does a man ever have a right to raise a hand to a woman other than in self-defense,” Biden said in a speech at the National Archives.

During an interview with NBC News earlier in the day, Biden addressed the issue more directly, saying that the Ravens “did the right thing.”

At the commemoration event, Biden discussed the challenges of changing the culture of domestic violence to an audience of about 250 men and women, among them members of women’s organizations, law enforcement, tribal leaders and survivors. They listened to Biden’s emotional account of some of the testimony from hearings that preceded the bill’s signing into law on Sept. 13, 1994.

“The only way to change this culture was to expose it,” Biden said.

Then-Sen. Biden introduced the original bill in 1990. The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized last year, with additional protections for Native Americans and LGBT _ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender _ communities.

The Violence Against Women Act established a network of services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, including expanding shelters and establishing a national hotline. It also improved criminal justice system processes and law enforcement training.

In a signed proclamation to honor the anniversary, President Barack Obama praised the expanded protections Tuesday while also acknowledging the continued issue of domestic violence.

Biden also wrote an op-ed for Delaware’s The News Journal, similarly acknowledging progress made toward changing the culture surrounding reporting domestic violence, while admitting there is “still more to do.”

The vice president announced an initiative related to domestic violence: a summit on civil rights and equal protection for women, which is expected to gather scholars and law enforcement to determine a path for survivors to sue their abusers in federal court.

In a report released this week in conjunction with the act’s anniversary, Alaska, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi were ranked the five states with the highest rates of women killed by men in 2012. Following those states were Nevada, Missouri, Arizona, Georgia and Tennessee.

The annual report used data from the FBI to examine single victim and offender incidents.

The worst state in the nation for men killing women was Alaska, where 2.57 women per 100,000 were killed in 2012, according to the report, titled “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2012 Homicide Data,” released by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, which advocates stricter gun laws. (The report can be found at https://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2014.pdf.)

South Carolina improved marginally from 2011, when it was ranked the worst, but Mississippi, Missouri and Georgia didn’t make the top 10 the previous year.

From 2011 to 2012, the overall number of women killed by men remained constant, the report said. In 2011, 1,707 females were killed by men. In 2012, it was 1,706, only one woman fewer than the previous year.

The long-term trend is more positive, however. During the 17 years the Violence Policy Center report has been published, the nationwide rate has dropped 26 percent from 1996 to 2012.