Democrats' attacks on Kavanaugh replacement Neomi Rao are unfair – I was nearly raped and I support her

Judicial nominee Neomi Rao may get ‘Kavanaugh treatment’

Trump judicial nominee facing growing scrutiny; reaction from Sens. Amy Klobuchar and John Kennedy.

Neomi Rao is President Trump’s nominee for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court that is generally recognized as the second-most important court in the nation. Four sitting Supreme Court justices previously sat on the D.C. Circuit.

There is no question that Rao is well qualified for this position. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School, she clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, served in the Office of the White House Counsel for President George W. Bush, founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at the Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University and currently heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for the Trump administration.

As these last two positions, in particular, indicate, she is an expert in administrative law, with which the D.C. Circuit is deeply involved.


As they often do with nominees with impeccable professional qualifications, Democrats have resorted to sifting through past writings — even back to college. While at Yale, Rao chose to write a column for the student paper that expressed her opinion at that moment on gender politics and rape. Senate Democrats have latched onto the old opinion piece in which Rao suggested excessive alcohol use by both men and women made young women less safe from sexual assault. She wrote:

"I've been to a lot of fraternity parties on this campus. It has always seemed self-evident to me that even if I drank a lot, I would still be responsible for my actions. A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted. At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober."

It’s important that we acknowledge that this and other portions of her op-ed are cringe-worthy and written without perspective, sensitivity, and nuance indicative of her age at the time.

As a mom, it’s my job to try to teach my children to be less vulnerable. Just as I taught my daughter to look both ways before crossing the street and to avoid walking alone at night, I warned her that she should avoid making herself vulnerable by impairing her judgment with drugs or excessive alcohol.

I think Rao herself understood that which is why when questioned about this point during her hearing on Tuesday, Rao told Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., that she would have phrased things differently and specified that she believes that a drunk woman is not to blame for her sexual assault.

Similarly, she told Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who recently revealed that she is a brave rape survivor, that she understands “a victim of a horrible crime is not to blame and the person who commits those crimes should be held responsible.”

We are at a strange place in culture. For some on the left, simply suggesting commonsense safety measures is victim blaming.

Consider what happened to journalist Emily Yoffe after she wrote the following in Slate: “Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them.” This sensible advice landed her in so much hot water with the left that she was compelled to write a follow-up piece defending herself.

Yet, we need to have the freedom to continue the conversation.

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health in 2001, “conservative estimates of sexual assault prevalence” suggest one out of every four American women “have experienced sexual assault, including rape.” About half of those cases “involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both.”

A 2015 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that “women who say they sometimes or often drink more than they should are twice as likely to be victims of completed, attempted or suspected sexual assaults as those who rarely or never drink.”

This issue is especially close to my heart, because I am a survivor; when I was pregnant with my first child, a stranger physically assaulted me and tried to rape me on a jogging trail. I narrowly escaped, because a woman driving by happened to see me and intervened.

So I have some understanding of the physical and psychological pain that survivors of sexual assaults feel. I am also the mother of a daughter in college, the same child I carried during my assault.

Interestingly, she and I just had this conversation again as she prepares for spring break in her senior year, and she promised me not to drink due to these same concerns. Obviously, as my story illustrates, alcohol or drugs often have nothing to do with the assault. Predators prey; it is what they do. However, they prey most often on the those they see as the most vulnerable.

As a mom, it’s my job to try to teach my children to be less vulnerable. Just as I taught my daughter to look both ways before crossing the street and to avoid walking alone at night, I warned her that she should avoid making herself vulnerable by impairing her judgment with drugs or excessive alcohol.

Ignoring my advice in any of these cases wouldn’t make her any less of a victim. Or, as Rao explained to Sen. Harris, it’s not about assigning blame. It’s about reducing risk.


Rao’s undergraduate column was insensitive, as she’s acknowledged. Just as we would never blame the child hit by a car, we would never blame a drunk woman hurt by a predator. It is about minimizing risk. In love, let’s protect our kids by giving them every opportunity to be safe. And, let’s allow women the freedom to discuss hard issues.

As for Neomi Rao, a poorly expressed, insensitive opinion piece from college, that she has since regretted, should not be grounds for opposing her nomination to the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals.


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