Neomi Rao, the nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has apologized for her past writings that blamed sexual assault survivors for their own date rape.
Rao wrote a letter Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee condemning “sexual assault in all forms” and apologizing for her insensitivity in remarks she made from her days at Yale University in the 1990s.
“As a college student, I was sheltered. Many years later, I have experienced more of the ups and downs of life,” Rao wrote, mentioning her own motherhood as part of her growth. “With greater maturity, I have more awareness of the silent victims of assault and rape.”
The letter came after Rao testified at her Feb. 5 confirmation hearing, in which senators asked her about her articles that said women can avoid date rape by staying “reasonably sober.”
In 1994, Rao wrote an op-ed that said “a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of choice.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who recently disclosed that she is a rape survivor, expressed concern during the hearing that Rao’s articles send the wrong message to women. Ernst told The Washington Post on Monday that, although she still has not finalized her confirmation decision, she “feels a lot better” about where Rao stands after meeting privately with her last week.
President Donald Trump nominated Rao, who has never been a judge, to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court months earlier amid sexual assault allegations. The D.C. Circuit is considered the second most powerful court in the country.