By Natalie Green
This week, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, the man President-elect Donald Trump nominated to serve as his administration’s attorney general, will face the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing. Senate Republicans are in a rush to approve his nomination. But for sexual assault survivors, the possibility of Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department is nothing short of terrifying.
I am a survivor of sexual assault. Until the election, I only shared this secret with my partner, my mother, and a few close friends. I am sharing this publicly now because it is critical we stop a man who does not even know the definition of sexual assault from becoming our country’s top law enforcement official.
When the Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault was revealed during the election, I felt scared for myself and the other survivors in my life. When Senator Sessions jumped to his defense, I realized the enormous magnitude of rape culture in the United States. When asked by The Weekly Standard if Trump’s statements in the hot mic video constituted sexual assault, he replied, “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch.” What Sessions fails to understand is that grabbing a woman’s genitals without her consent is literally the definition of sexual assault; it is a crime — full stop. The Department of Justice — the agency that he is being nominated to lead — defines assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”
Seeing a person like Senator Sessions nominated as attorney general is a slap in the face not only to survivors like myself, but to all women nationwide who will count on him to uphold the law and protect them from rapists and sexual predators. Whether Sessions is simply interested in enabling Donald Trump, downplaying abuse towards women, or unable to understand the basic meaning of sexual assault, his elevation to attorney general would completely undermine women’s faith in the Department of Justice.
Seeing a person like Senator Sessions nominated as attorney general is a slap in the face not only to survivors like myself, but to all women nationwide.
Sessions’ defense of Trump is not the first time he has failed women, and his role as attorney general may weaken existing programs working to end the national epidemic of sexual assault. Sessions has an abysmal record when it comes to protecting women, from voting repeatedly against legislation to crack down on military sexual assault to opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But Sessions’ record does not end with gender-based violence — his 30-year record on civil rights, in which he received notoriety for opposing the Voting Rights Act, is despicable. He has labeled civil rights groups like the ACLU and NAACP as “un-American,” stating that the organization “forced civil rights down the throats of people,” jokingly approved of the Ku Klux Klan, and was even deemed too racist to be a federal district court judge in 1986 — by the same Judicial Committee he is set to appear before this week. Black, immigrant, and Native American women are at the greatest risk of sexual violence. We must not allow an openly racist man who cannot even define — let alone protect us from — sexual assault to become attorney general.
Our nation is currently experiencing a rape culture crisis of epidemic proportions; one in five women will be raped at some point in her lifetime. That is why I am teaming up with a group of sexual assault survivors and members of the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet to deliver a giant poster with the printed Department of Justice definition of sexual assault to Sessions’ office in Washington, DC. The United States needs an attorney general that will defend the rights of every person in this country — that includes protecting all women from gender-based violence.
Thirty years ago, the Senate said Jeff Sessions was too racist to be a federal judge. Three months ago, Senator Sessions did not think that grabbing a woman by her genitals without her consent was sexual assault. Our country is at a moment of crisis and needs an attorney general that will take sexual assault seriously and will stand up for the rights of all people in this country. It is abundantly clear that Jeff Sessions is not fit to be attorney general of the United States.
By Natalie Green - an UltraViolet member and an organizer with the multi-racial millennial group #AllofUs. Follow her on Twitter: @natalieg92