Like most high-profile Democrats, 2020 presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris fancies herself as a champion of women’s rights. But when it comes to sexual assault prevention, Harris’s position on the issue is a dangerous one that will only lead to more victims.
This week during a confirmation hearing, California’s junior Senator had the opportunity to question President Trump’s judicial nominee Neomi Rao. Rao is up for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s old seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
Harris grilled Rao on opinion pieces from 1994-1996 that resurfaced at Buzzfeed a few weeks ago. Harris took specific issue with writings Rao had done on sexual assault:
In an October 1994 column, also in the Yale Herald, Rao wrote that while a drunk man who raped women should be prosecuted, “a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.”
“And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice,” Rao wrote. “Implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does strips women of all moral responsibility.”
This sounds like common-sense advice. No victim-blaming. Just someone advising women on ways to better protect themselves from sexual predators, right?
Senator Harris, who is prone to theatrical displays, didn’t see it that way. Here’s a partial transcript of her questioning of Rao on this issue:
Harris: You said when having a conversation with Sen. Ernst, ‘Women should take certain steps to avoid becoming a victim.’ What steps do you have in mind that women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?
Rao: Senator, it’s just sort of a common sense idea about for instance excessive drinking, y’know that was advice that was given to by my mother.
Harris: So that’s one step that you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?
Rao: It is just a way to make it less likely, it’s not to blame the victim, rape and sexual assault are horrible crimes, but we’re talking about what can you do to keep yourself safe.
Harris: Are there other steps that you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?
Rao: That is one of the issues I discussed, I’m not sure if there are others.
Harris: So do you believe that if women do not take those steps that she is at fault or partially at fault for what happens to her?
Rao: Uh, no.
Harris: So what is the significance of taking those steps?
Rao: Well it’s just the significance of trying to avoid becoming a victim of any crime. We take different steps to protect ourselves from horrible crime, such as rape. And I think what we want is for women to not be victims.
Unfortunately, Harris’s line of aggressive questioning, along with Republican Senator Joni Ernst’s (who is a sexual assault survivor herself) gentler but firm approach prompted Rao to say she regretted some of her past writings, saying that’s not how she’d word it today.
Rao expressing her regrets did not matter to Harris, who took to Twitter to lie about Rao’s remarks, suggesting she has a blame the victim mentality when it comes to sexual assault:
Here's the bottom line: survivors of sexual assault should not be blamed for the trauma they've experienced. Neomi Rao's prior writings about sexual assault are completely unacceptable and her responses to my questions today were deeply troubling. pic.twitter.com/jlOuhHWtQx
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) February 5, 2019
This is ridiculous and non-sensical. Sadly, it’s the pervasive view in modern feminist circles. Harris is not the first left-wing politico to take offense at those offering practical advice for keeping women safe, and she won’t be the last.
I wrote about this topic years ago at my site, and I’ll re-up some excerpts here because the same holds true today:
I get in trouble sometimes for making this argument because some people think I’m “blaming the victim.” Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a difference in saying something might have been preventable versus blaming the victim for what happened. No victim of rape deserves to be raped. Period. Full stop. My point is that I want there to be less victims of crime, not more, and the best way to reduce your chances of being a victim is to start by being responsible for where you are and the condition you are in and who you are with.
Why is this so controversial to say? Parents tell their kids not to play too close to the street. Husbands remind their wives not to drive or walk in a bad neighborhood at all, especially at night and especially not alone. Mothers strongly urge a buddy system for their teenage daughters when a group of them get together for a beach trip. Why not encourage women, especially young high school and college women, to avoid getting drunk? Doesn’t mean you can’t drink, but it also means to not have so much to drink you forget who you are, where you are, and who you are with —- and what you’re doing.
Yes, we should be able to go where we want to go, and do what we want to do without fear that we’re going to be attacked – and that goes for men, too. We have the “right” of free will. But having “the right” to do something in our society doesn’t always = being ok to exercise it. With freedom comes responsibility, and we must be responsible for ourselves, and in our decision making, because our society is not perfect. And that is the reality of it – we don’t live in a perfect world, and there are people out there who will always be up to no good, so we must guard ourselves against such people.
David French puts a fine point on it:
I understand the imperative to change male behavior (and punish male predators) to such an extent that women are completely safe even if they have too much to drink, but until this longed-for utopia is here (and it will never fully arrive), we are harming women and girls by deliberately deciding not to warn them of known risks. This is exactly when radical ideology passes from mere disagreement to real danger. Harris is so intent on blaming men that she neglects to empower women. In fact she scorns those who do.
The fundamental goal is to decrease sexual assault. We do that in two ways, by seeking to stop predators and by warning victims about behaviors we know render them more vulnerable. The only thing that’s “deeply troubling” about the exchange above is Senator Harris’s apparent indignant reluctance to tell women the truth.
Harris’s warped take on others advising common-sense ways for women to prevent becoming victimized is a backwards, dangerous way of thinking. This issue is very important, especially in the #MeToo era, and it deserves more than the shameless political grandstanding she’s given it.
On a related note, I’m eagerly awaiting her answer on whether or not she believes Virginia’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should step down. New Rules™ and all that…
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