By Melissa Bryant
Domestic violence is a silent terror in homes all across this country. Women suffer, sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice, in secret, in shame, and in fear.
Nearly 40 years ago, we decided to change that by ending the shame and raising awareness. Creating Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which we mark every October, was one of many steps that have been taken over the past 40 years to make sure women would know that they are not alone and that they could get the help they need. .
And for me, this is personal. As the country was shining a spotlight on this violence at home, my family lost an aunt to intimate partner violence, and it’s something we have been carrying with us ever since.
Ten years later, a young senator in Washington, DC took a look at violent crime statistics and couldn’t believe how bad things were for women. So he wrote a bill -- called the Violence Against Women Act -- to do something about it. And in 1994, his bill became law -- and made a huge difference. By 2011, domestic violence declined by 72%.
In other words -- women were much safer in their own homes.
The senator who wrote that bill was Joe Biden. He often says that it’s one of the highlights of his career. And he’s gone on to renew and strengthen the law three times since 1994.
Sadly, not everyone is like Joe Biden. The Violence Against Women Act needs to be reauthorized -- with key updates that will matter to women across our country. But Senator Mitch McConnell has held up the legislation, and the critical services it provides--since last February.
At a time when women are at increased risk of domestic violence during this pandemic, we need elected officials who will stand with those who have often been powerless. We need leaders that care. That’s the country that I want to live in. The country that I served.
I’m ready for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
I know Joe Biden cares, and I know he’s going to get it done. How do I know? Because he got it done during his years in the Senate, time and time again. He continued to be a champion for survivors in the Obama-Biden Administration, when he founded It’s On Us, the nation’s largest campus sexual assault prevention organization--and because he’s laid out, clearly and unequivocally, his plans to prioritize and expand VAWA as President. And he will fight for women like me by ending sexual harassment and assault in the military.
We need the hope for a better future, and we need real, tangible change. Joe’s plans will do that. During my time serving in the military, I was cat-called. I was harassed. I heard comments about my physique. These are things my father and grandfather -- who both served -- never had to deal with. But women serve our country honorably as well, and we deserve the same protections as our male counterparts under the law. And as we witnessed this year, we still face tragedies like that of Vanessa Guillen, who was missing for two months before her remains were found.
Women know that we cannot wait for change, especially when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault and harassment. Joe Biden is the proven leader we need to protect us, do the right thing, and make our country stronger. Make a plan to vote for him at iwillvote.com.
Melissa Bryant is a veterans’ advocate and licensed consultant with 20 years of combined experience in federal government management, nonprofit advocacy, and nonprofit executive leadership. Melissa was most recently the National Legislative Director for The American Legion. She previously served as the Chief Policy Officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). A former Army Captain and Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, Melissa's extensive record of public service includes critical roles in both military and civil service as a senior intelligence officer prior to joining IAVA.