On March 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Shannon Lee Goessling, Trump’s pick to head the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) at the Department of Justice. Women’s rights and anti-violence activists have raised serious concerns over the nominee’s anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-racial justice history, noting that combating intimate partner violence requires an intersectional perspective that understands the vulnerability of respective communities.
Goessling spent eleven years as the executive director and chief legal counsel at the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF), a conservative public interest firm and policy center that works to strip environmental protections, dismantle gun control legislation, oppose LGBTQ rights, and more.
Under her leadership, SLF advocated against Alabama’s administration of driver’s license exams in languages other than English, raising serious concerns about her position on providing domestic violence resources in foreign languages, as well as how she would handle policies around survivors’ immigration statuses, their eligibility for public support, and her respect for cultural differences in addressing intimate partner violence.
During the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, SLF and Goessling advocated in favor of bans on same-sex marriage. Advocates fear that with Goessling heading OVW, LGBTQ survivors won’t get the increase in resources they need. A report released in 2016 found that nearly half of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence have been turned away from shelters, highlighting the need for increased resources and training.
One of Goessling’s most troubling positions is her argument for wider gun ownership as a means of preventing violence against women, with one of her SLF amicus brief’s stating that, “Women who are confronted with a sexual assault are significantly less likely to experience a completed rape if they resist with a weapon.” In reality, a 2016 report by Trace found that, “Every credible scientific study of women and guns in the last two decades strongly indicates that a firearm in a woman’s home is far more likely to be used against her or her family than to defend from an outside intruder.”
If an abuser has access to firearm, victims are five times more likely to be killed. An average of 760 Americans are killed with guns by intimate partners each year, and more than 80% of the victims are women. In addition, 4.5 million women report being intimidated or coerced with a gun by an intimate partner.
The Office of Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice is charged with reducing violence against women and strengthening services to survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 10/20/16; The Trace 5/2/16; American Journal of Public Health 07/2003; Huffington Post 2/26/16; Business Insider 10/4/16