This morning a group of sexual assault survivors, advocates and activists, led by national women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, went to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Capitol Hill Senate Office to present him with the Department of Justice’s definition of sexual assault and demand that he take violence against women seriously.
Sessions, who Donald Trump has selected to serve as his Attorney General, has a poor record defending women’s rights, including voting against pay equity and re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. After tapes were released of then-Presidential-nominee Donald Trump gloating that he grabs women by the genitals without their consent, Sessions notoriously remarked that he didn’t believe that act of violence legally constituted as sexual assault.
“We do not trust Sen. Jeff Sessions to tackle the epidemic of rape,” declared Sophie, a sexual assault survivor who spoke in front of Sessions’ office this morning. “If Jeff Sessions doesn’t know the definition of sexual assault, he should withdraw his name from nomination.”
Sessions will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow for the first day of testimony concerning his nomination, which must be approved by the Committee before heading to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.
This is not the first time Sessions has been in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for a nomination hearing. In 1986, the Committee refused to put Jeff Sessions up for nomination to serve as a federal judge because they did not trust that he would defend minority rights, due to his many racially insensitive utterances and his misguided prosecution of African American voting rights activists.
Gerry Hebert, who served as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, testified at Sessions’ 1986 confirmation hearing about some of the racially insensitive comments he had heard from the then-Alabama U.S. Attorney. Recently Hebert, now director of voting rights for the Campaign Legal Center, stated, “As Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions prosecuted black citizens on phony charges of ‘voter fraud.’ Sessions has also supported discriminatory voter ID laws based on the myth of widespread voter fraud, denied a continuing history of discrimination against minority voters in the South, and celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that gutted the landmark Voting Rights Act, a law he will now be sworn to protect and enforce.”
His nomination for Attorney General has been widely condemned by a number of women’s and civil rights organizations, who argue he has done nothing to correct his record in the last thirty years, and is now in reach of an even higher office as chief enforcer of our nation’s laws. He has voted against extending federal hate crime protections to those targeted because of gender identity or sexual orientation, and has proposed a total ban on all undocumented immigrants, rejecting any pathway to citizenship.
In an open letter, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence wrote, “The 14th Amendment provides the inalienable right that every person receive equal protection under the law. Senator Sessions’ senate record of strenuous objection to protections for historically marginalized populations, coupled with his record of selective prosecutions, demonstrate his unwillingness to protect marginalized victims’ access to justice and disqualify him from holding the position of Attorney General of the United States, a position charged with the responsibility of justice for all. Selective application of the law and outward hostility towards victims of sexual and domestic violence in historically marginalized populations has a chilling effect on their willingness and ability to seek services and protection. It drives sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking underground, something we have made great strides to avoid.”
Media Resources: UltraViolet 1/9/17; Huffington Post 1/9/17; ABC 11/18/16; Time 1/9/17; National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence 1/4/17.