Sexual Assault Awareness Month may be coming to a close, but our newest MAKER, former Vice President Joe Biden, remains committed to carrying on the fight to end violence against women all year round.
"Nothing justifies a man laying a hand on a woman without her consent. It's rape if you cannot give consent. It is assault. It is never, never, never, never justified," Biden tells MAKERS in an exclusive interview. "As long as there's a breath in me, I'm going to be engaged in this issue."
Amid a national reckoning on sexual assault catalyzed by the #MeToo Movement, "there's been an awakening," says Biden, "and women are coming forward now who have been victimized because they give hope and courage to other women."
Biden witnessed the power of women's voices when, as a senator representing Delaware, he introduced the Violence Against Women Act in 1990. "When I started to write the legislation, I was convinced we had to get some brave women to come forward and take this out of the shadows," he says. "It allowed other women to say, 'wait a minute, that happened to me.'"
During his time as the 47th vice president of the United States serving alongside former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, Biden expanded his advocacy work and launched It's On Us, a nationwide campaign aimed at ending sexual assault on college campuses.
"We started investigating colleges and a startling number came back. One in five women dropped off on a college campus are going to be the victim of sexual violence," says Biden. When he asked young women if he could do anything to make them feel safer, the overwhelming response was: "Get men involved."
Today Biden—who joins actor-activist Justin Baldoni, Oscar-nominated writer and actor Kumail Nanjiani, astronaut Leland Melvin, and NFL quarterback Russell Wilson in our MAKERS Mens series—continues his public service through the Biden Foundation. Recently, the Biden Foundation and It's On Us honored students working to end sexual assault at the Biden Courage Awards.
"It's on everybody to change the culture," Biden says. "We'll succeed when we change the culture enough that no woman says 'what did I do?' And we'll have succeeded when no young man says 'well it was my right' or 'I was entitled' or 'she asked for it.'"