This afternoon—between Specter defections, Clinton-Obama joint appearances and a rare Tony Bennett sighting, one of the strangest I’ve spent on Capitol Hill—it’s worth looking miles from the Beltway, to Austin, TX, where Vice President Joe Biden toured the National Domestic Violence Hotline Center. Joined by Austin Mayor Will Wynn, Biden surveyed the complex that hosts the hotline and other programs designed to help women, especially those suffering from emotional and physical abuse, help themselves. From the press pool report:

[Biden] was guided to the crinkled paper on the wall with the 2-million calls’ notation. With a marker, he wrote above that notation: “Keep the faith! You are changing womens’ lives one woman at a time” before putting his signature below his message. Folks in the room broke into applause. VPOTUS then hugged Cindy Loper, a staff member whose cubicle is near the crinkled-paper wall.

VPOTUS briefly held staff member Anna Truchard’s hand—saying “we’ve already met; we’re old buddies”— before continuing his walk-through… At the south end of the room, he hovered over staff members taking calls in Spanish.

VPOTUS then crossed the hall into a room where about 20 people were clustered in anticipation of a group photograph. The people including Marta Pelaez, described to me later as president and ceo of one of the largest women’s shelters in San Antonio, spoke quietly to him before VPOTUS said over the past 15 years, he’s often been approached by women giving thanks for the act leading to the center. “It is a big deal,” he said.

“We need someone to advocate for us and you are that person,” Pelaez said.

“Well baby, I ain’t going away,” he said, adding that he’s lined up two women to fill administration positions focus on preventing domestic violence. 

What a guy! It’s easy to joke, as Sarah Palin did, about the vice president being dispatched to various funerals and second-tier conferences, but today Biden provided needed exposure for this increasingly critical resource and also provided an important reminder as to why these caricatures don't apply to him.

Biden’s authorship of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 was a remarkable piece of legislative doggedness, as chronicled by Fred Strebeigh in the New Republic last summer. The bill’s passage also depended in large part on the work of a group of female lawyers that Biden trusted and heeded at key moments in the fight to keep its provisions legal (a tale that Strebeigh also relates in his new book, "Equal"). Biden takes the thought of abuse so seriously, apparently, that people think he's been affected himself.

VPOTUS said everybody thinks he has a family member who was the victim of violence. “Thank god they weren’t,” he said. “I was raised by a really gentle decent man who thought the single greatest, the cardinal sin for real of all cardinal sins was the abuse of power. The ultimate abuse of power was for a man to raise his hand to a woman, or for a woman or man to raise their hand to a child. That’s the ultimate, that’s the serious abuse of power that can exist.”


With that kind of empathetic statement, I’d say that the vice president could stand to be known for more than verbal diddles and a prizefighter’s honor—his support of women’s rights makes far more of an impression.


 ALSO: Via the White House, some background and additional resources:

Since the hotline center’s founding in 1996—spurred by congressional approval of the VPOTUS-sponsored Violence Against Women Act in 1994—the hotline has fielded more than 2 million calls. Its number is 800-799-7233 (SAFE).

The Love is Respect hotline, focused on teen-agers, has handled more than 25,000 calls and online chats since it started as a hotline-center project in November 2007. The hotline is called the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline; it’s 866-331-9474. Both hotlines are open around the clock 365 days a year. The teen online chat site——is live from 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Friday, year-round.


(Cross-posted at XX Factor)

Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.