April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every year, at this time, we talk about awareness, prevention, and the importance of women feeling they can step forward, say something, and be heard. That belief — that women should be heard — was the underpinning of a law I wrote over 25 years ago. To this day, I am most proud of the Violence Against Women Act. So, each April we are reminded not only of how far we have come in dealing with sexual assault in this country — but how far we still have to go.
When I wrote the bill, few wanted to talk about the issue. It was considered a private matter, a personal matter, a family matter. I didn’t see it that way. To me, freedom from fear, harm, and violence for women was a legal right, a civil right, and a human right. And I knew we had to change not only the law, but the culture.
So, we held hours of hearings and heard from the most incredibly brave women — and we opened the eyes of the Senate and the nation — and passed the law.
In the years that followed, I fought to continually strengthen the law. So, when we took office and President Obama asked me what I wanted, I told him I wanted oversight of the critical appointments in the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice and I wanted a senior White House Advisor appointing directly to me on the issue. Both of those things happened.
As Vice President, we started the “It’s on Us” campaign on college campuses to send the message loud and clear that dating violence is violence — and against the law.
We had to get men involved. They had to be part of the solution. That’s why I made a point of telling young men this was their problem too — they couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening around them — they had a responsibility to speak out. Silence is complicity.
In the 26 years since the law passed, the culture and perceptions have changed but we’re not done yet.
It’s on us, and it’s on me as someone who wants to lead this country. I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished. So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago.