According to remarks from the former vice president at Glamour's Women of the Year Summit, Joe Biden and Lady Gaga will open trauma centers for survivors of sexual assault. While it's unclear exactly what the trauma centers would include, Biden says he envisions the centers as places "where women can go to get the long-term help they need to deal with these crises."
"We finally are recognizing the long-term impacts on the health of women and men who’ve been abused. It’s the next great frontier I want to be a part of,” Biden said.
A spokesperson for Biden confirmed the report in a statement to Entertainment Weekly, saying that the plans are still in their infancy. Despite the lack of details, like the number of victims who would be served, for instance, or what specific resources they would offer, advocates say that trauma centers play an important role in healing and recovery for sexual assault victims.
"We are eager to learn more about their plan," says Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. "Certainly we know there are a lot of people out there who have experienced multiple assaults or who have been profoundly impacted by the things that were done to them."
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), a person is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in the U.S. Women and girls experience sexual violence at particularly high rates, with one out of every six women being a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
Biden and Gaga have teamed up to fight against sexual assault on multiple occasions. They released a PSA on sexual assault for the It's On Us campaign, a nonprofit organization launched in 2014 following recommendations from the White House Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault, which noted the importance of engaging community leaders, companies, and organizations in the conversation to end sexual violence.
In 2016, the then-vice president introduced Gaga's Academy Award performance of "Til It Happens to You," which she co-wrote for the documentary film The Hunting Ground, about campus rape in the United States. That performance also included some 50 survivors of sexual assault, one of which — illustrator Jacqueline Lin — designed Gaga's "fire rose unity survivor" tattoo. The tattoo has since become a display of survival for many victims of sexual assault.
Gaga, a sexual assault survivor herself, has been a vocal proponent of assault education, saying she knows firsthand "the effects, the aftermath, the trauma: psychological, physical, mental. It can be terrifying waking up every day feeling unsafe in your own body." After first speaking publicly about her sexual assault in 2015, Gaga said she now speaks out about rape in the hopes of helping those who have gone through something similar.
Biden has been outspoken on sexual assault education as well, penning an April essay about the resistance he faced when he wrote the Violence Against Women Act more than 20 years ago. Noting that public sentiment has evolved since then, Biden cautioned supporters against growing complacent: "Everyone needs to become more engaged than they ever have been and not be discouraged by today’s political climate."
While the trauma brought on by sexual assault can be similar to trauma brought on by other instances — combat, eating disorders, etc. — the stigmas around the issues, and the way victims are cared for, can be very different. Centers where advocates and educators are well-trained on understanding the highly personal nature of sexual assault aren't always easy for victims to find — but remain incredibly important.
"Finding long-term care that is sensitive to sexual trauma can be very hard to access," Houser says.