Joe Biden, 47th Vice President of the United States
Serving as a U.S. Senator for 36 years and as the Vice President for eight, Joe Biden has always been a proponent of women’s rights. He shined a light on violence against women that took it out of the shadows and onto the Senate floor 28 years ahead of today’s movement.
JOE BIDEN: 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.
Well, I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and I won the gene pool. My mother was sweet and gentle, but a backbone like a ramrod. She looks at you, Joey, look at me. Remember, you're defined by your courage and you're redeemed by your loyalty.
And my dad was a man of enormous integrity. He used to say, it's the greatest sin that can be committed, is abuse of power. And the cardinal sin of all sins was for a man to raise his hand to a woman. I mean, for real, he taught us that if we saw something, speak up, speak out, do something.
I commuted every day from Delaware. And right after the accident I realized every time I'd leave, my two boys would worry about, is dad coming back? A decision I made was that whenever my children wanted me, I would stop whatever I was doing and do it, without exception.
And then Jill came along and saved our lives, basically. I mean, I had to ask her five times to marry me. After the fifth time she said OK. And my sister, who's a great friend of hers said, what made you change your mind? And she said, I fell in love with the boys. [LAUGHS]
So every important thing my sons, and later my daughter, ever, ever said to me has been spontaneous, you know? It's like riding down the street in my old Corvette, we stopped on a country road and little Hunter turns me and says, Daddy, I love you more than the whole sky.
I'm not sure what I would have done had my two boys not survived, because I knew I had an obligation to them. But it turns out, my boys ended up raising me.
When I started to write the legislation, I was convinced that we had to get some brave women to come forward and take this out of the shadows. It was the dirty little secret that no one wanted to talk about. There was a young woman at a small Catholic college and she agreed to come and testify. She was a freshman and a guy said, I'll walk you back to the dorm. Can we stop in my dorm? I want to get a coat. And he dragged her into the room and he raped her.
And I'll never forget what she said. She said, I ran home and I stripped down and took a scalding shower. She said, I was sitting on the end of my bed crying and the resident advisor-- the RA-- came in and I told her what happened. And she said, you've been raped. She said, no I wasn't. I knew him. I knew him. It allowed other women to say, wait a minute, why should anybody make me feel badly that I was abused?
When I became vice president, the president asked me is there anything I wanted. And I said, yes, I want to take the Violence Against Women Act and I want to bring it inside the vice president's office. And so we started investigating colleges and a startling number came back-- one in five women dropped off in a college campus are gonna be the victim of sexual violence.
I spoke with over 150 college presidents, which really made them uncomfortable. A lot of them didn't like it. I held a town meeting with tens of thousands of students and I said, if we could do anything to make you feel safer, what would it be? The overwhelming response was get men involved.
There was just an awakening and women are coming forward now who have been victimized, because they give hope and courage to other women. 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.
I asked young men to take the pledge that they will intervene if they see something going wrong. It's on everybody to change the culture. And so, as long as there's a breath in me, I'm gonna continue to be engaged in this.
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