Ernst, A Sexual Assault Survivor, Pushes Judicial Nominee On Past Writing About Rape

February 5, 2019 2:19 p.m.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who just weeks ago shared her trauma of being sexual assaulted, questioned D.C. Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao Tuesday on her past statements about rape and women’s rights.

Rao is currently being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee to fill the spot of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Professor Christine Blasey Ford and other women. In writings from college, Rao suggested that women who were drinking were partially responsible for sexual assault.

Ernst opened up her questioning by asking Rao’s current stance on rape and who’s to blame.

Rao said that her thinking had evolved on the issue.

“A victim of a horrible crime is not to blame,” Rao said. “The person who commits the crime should be held responsible. I tried to make the comments and observations that women can take certain steps to try to avoid becoming a victim because that does seem to be the goal in making it less likely. Should someone be a victim, they should not be blamed.”

Ernst then quoted Rao back to herself from her college writings, questioning if she still believed that it is “a dangerous feminist idealism which teaches women that they are equal.”

“Senator, I very much regret that statement and I have always believed strongly in the equality of women and men and for equal rights and opportunities for women,” Rao responded. “I am honestly not sure why I wrote that in college.”

Ernst gave an interview to Bloomberg in late January after details of her accusations against her ex-husband leaked during divorce proceedings. She said that she had been raped in college and abused by her ex-husband.

Watch part of the questioning here:

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