Joe Biden Says It’s On Men To End Rape Culture. 12/1/2017
Published by REFINERY29
the past 25 years, outgoing Vice President Joe Biden has made
combatting domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault
something of a mission.
First there was the Violence Against
Women Act, the landmark piece of legislation he introduced back in 1990
when he was a U.S. senator. That bill, which was signed into law four
years later, changed the way law enforcement addressed issues of
domestic violence and sexual assault. He led the charge to reauthorize
it three times.
Then there is his work as vice president to
change the culture surrounding sexual assault and violence. Throughout
his two terms, Biden has been outspoken about the underlying societal
norms and values that lead to violence against women.
He appointed the first White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. He worked with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan to create guidelines
for universities on how to address sexual assault on campus. And he
even he established the first-ever White House Task Force to Protect
Students from Sexual Assault, launching the “It’s On Us” campaign, an
effort to educate students about the issue.
As his term comes to
an end, Biden is out there, still beating the drum. “Here’s the deal
guys. I’m no longer going to be vice president, but…I’m going to be
setting up a foundation that’s going to devote the rest of my life to
dealing with violence against women” he said at the It’s On Us summit at the White House earlier this month.
had a chance to ask Biden about rape culture, shifting cultural norms,
and how women can continue to fight the good fight in the age of Trump.
like “rape culture” have grown in popularity on the left in recent
years. In your mind what does “rape culture” mean and how have those on
the right misinterpreted it? Is it a useful term or is it alienating?
is terribly wrong when people ask victims of sexual assault questions
like, ‘What were you wearing? Why were you there? What did you say? How
much did you drink?’ Rape culture happens whenever women are reduced to
sexual objects instead being treated with the inherent rights and
dignity that belong to all humans. And we have to take it on wherever we
find it in our society, whether it’s the so-called locker room talk, or
bar banter, or the tasteless joke—anything that condones or even
promotes violence against women.
“Naming rape culture—calling
sexual assault by its rightful name—isn’t about attacking or alienating
anyone on the left or the right. It’s about taking off the social
blinders that make it easier to overlook violence, rather than confront
it. And because this culture is pervasive in our society, we all have a
responsibility to step up to change it.“
Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime. That’s something we all should be able to agree on.Vice President Joe Biden“That’s
why I wrote the Violence Against Women Act with my staff in the Senate
more than twenty years ago. Back then, violence against women was
considered a ‘family affair.’ Victims suffered in silence. Too often,
judges, lawyers, even friends and family blamed the victims instead of
the perpetrator. I was convinced that if the curtain was pulled back on
this dirty little secret—the vast majority of the American people would
demand change. After thousands of hours of research, hundreds of hours
of hearings, testimony from advocates and experts, health professionals,
psychiatrists, and brave survivors, we finally enacted the Violence
Against Women Act in 1994. We’ve reauthorized it three times since then,
and the country has made great progress because of it. Domestic
violence dropped 72% between 1993 and 2014.
“But we still have a
long way to go. On our college campuses, for women between the ages of
18 and 24, nothing had changed over the past 20 years. Today, 1 in 5
women are sexually assaulted before they leave college. That’s
unacceptable. We have to change the culture that excuses sexual assault
by saying boys will be boys. We have to ensure that a survivor’s right
to justice is never swept aside because of concerns for the reputation
of the accused or of the school.
"Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime. That’s something we all should be able to agree on.”
Then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden at a committee hearing in 1990, the year he first introduced the Violence Against Women Act. You
have talked about needing to change the “cultural norm” in this country
around issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. During the Obama
administration we had a friendly administration in terms of these
issues. It is unclear if we will in the next. So how do we continue to
change the culture even if we don’t have legislative or governmental
“As I said, this is bigger than any one person, any
one president, or any one administration. It’s on all of us to stop
sexual assault and violence. You don’t need me or President Obama in the
White House to know what the right thing to do is when you see violence
and sexual assault taking place right in front of you. Speak up. Get
“And by the way, it’s not just the job of women to
keep pushing for change. One of the questions we asked during this
Administration was what high schoolers and college students thought we
could do to make campuses safer. I held virtual town halls with
thousands of students across the country. And the overwhelming response
was to get men and boys involved. Get men and boys involved.
why President Obama and I launched It’s On Us—a campaign to
fundamentally change the culture around sexual assault. It’s On Us is a
student-centered movement that engages all aspects of campuses from the
presidents, to the football coaches, to the fraternities, to student
activists, and everyone in the middle to push the message that everyone
has an obligation to step up, step in, and stop sexual assaults.“And you
don’t have to wait. You can take action right now. Join the 400,000
people who have taken the pledge to stop sexual assault and violence.
Pledge to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. Pledge to
intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. Pledge
to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and
survivors are supported. Take the pledge at itsonus.org.”"Now more than ever, young people will need to be engaged in politics and make sure their voices are heard. Joe Biden”What
message do you have for the millions of millennial women who read
Refinery29 and who may feel disenfranchised by the incoming
administration, or at the very least disconnected from politics in
general. What advice do you have for us?
“At the end of the
1960s, America was divided. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had
been assassinated. My city of Wilmington, Delaware had burned and been
taken over by federal troops. Families had been torn apart by the
Vietnam War. It didn’t seem possible for the center to hold, and it was
all about to spiral out of control. But we didn’t come apart.
today, after more than four decades in public life, I still believe in
the resiliency of the American people—of your readers—and in the
fundamental, basic, decent instincts of average Americans who are
capable of doing extraordinary things.
“Even though it doesn’t
look like it right now—there is more consensus on more issues than we
hear out of the Congress or in the press: on rebuilding our
infrastructure, on raising the minimum wage, on fighting climate change,
on child care and paid leave, on LGBT rights.Advertisement“America
has been tested before. And we must never forget that the success of
this great nation isn’t guaranteed. There’s nothing guaranteed about
democracy—nothing guaranteed about self-governance. We have to earn our
progress, just as every generation before us has. If you were
disappointed by the outcome this past election, the answer is not to sit
on the sidelines or throw up your hands.
“Now more than ever,
young people will need to be engaged in politics and make sure their
voices are heard. The next four years must be a time of action—to show
the world that the future of America is bright and that we still hold
sacred our founding principles—that all men and women are created equal.
Rich, poor, middle class. Black, white, Hispanic. Gay, straight,
transgender. Immigrant, native born. We come from different places, but
we remain the strongest when we are one America where we all do our