Women's Advocates Argue Jeff Sessions Is Unfit To Be Attorney General

They cite his troubling comments about sexual assault and his vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

A national coalition of organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault is publicly opposing President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, arguing Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has a record that suggests he won’t fairly enforce the law when it comes to historically marginalized groups.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence issued an open letter on Wednesday, which it based on a review of Sessions’ record as a senator and as a state and federal prosecutor.

“The role of Attorney General requires a demonstrated commitment to providing equal protection under the law—particularly to people who face discrimination because of their race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or other identities,” the coalition writes. “Senator Sessions’ history leads us to question whether he will vigorously seek to ensure that all victims and survivors of gender-based violence, particularly vulnerable populations and those at the margins of society, have access to vitally needed services and legal protections.”

Sessions was rejected as a federal judge more than three decades ago due to allegations that he made racially insensitive statements. That history, along with his vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 and his troubling comments on what constitutes sexual assault, make him an unqualified choice for attorney general, the group argues. 

The job that he is seeking is the top law enforcement officer for the United States. He should be familiar with the definition of sexual assault. Lisalyn Jacobs, National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

When asked about the 2005 audio recording in which Trump was heard bragging about grabbing women by the genitals without their consent, Sessions said the behavior described was not necessarily sexual assault.

“I think that’s a stretch,” he said in October.

Lisalyn Jacobs, a member of the task force’s steering committee, said Sessions’ comments minimize sexual violence and call into question his commitment to enforcing laws regarding rape, domestic abuse and stalking.

“The job that he is seeking is the top law enforcement officer for the United States,” she said. “He should be familiar with the definition of sexual assault.”

Most importantly, she said, an attorney general needs to be willing to fight for justice for people of all races, genders and backgrounds.

“We need in that office someone who will vindicate the rights of those who are at the highest risk, and someone who has a demonstrated history of having done that already,” she said. “That unfortunately is lacking in Senator Sessions’ record.”

The task force is just the latest group to speak out against Sessions’ nomination. More than 1,300 law professors have urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject him, citing a lousy record on civil rights.


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


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