Leahy Presses AG Nominee Not To Roll Back Key Protections For Victims Of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

. . . At Confirmation Hearing, Leahy Asks Why Sessions Opposed Bipartisan Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, Jan.10, 2017) — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead author of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act which was enacted in 2013, challenged Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on Tuesday not to roll back the important progress made to protect all victims of domestic and sexual violence, including LGBT individuals and those living on tribal lands.

During the Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the Sessions nomination Tuesday, Leahy asked:

“[T]he Justice Department, by all accounts, has done an excellent job implementing and enforcing it over the last three years. I believe -- we were both prosecutors.  I went to a lot of domestic violence scenes -- crime scenes -- as a young prosecutor.  I believe that all victims of domestic and sexual violence deserve protection.

“Why did you vote against expanding protections for LGBT victims, students, immigrants and tribal victims of domestic violence and sexual assault? Why did you vote no?”

Sessions’ opposition to the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 78-22, has prompted significant concerns from leading organizations including the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.  In an open letter, the task force wrote that “The Attorney General is tasked with ensuring that VAWA’s protection and programs are available and accessible to all. Senator Sessions’ opposition to the VAWA protections and his prosecutorial record leave us gravely concerned that he would not vigorously or consistently apply these protections.”

Later in the day, Leahy pressed Sessions on his initial response last year to Access Hollywood audio and video which revealed startling comments made by President-elect Donald Trump in which he bragged about groping women. 

“As you recall, when Mr. Trump bragged about how he had grabbed women and so on…you said ‘I don’t characterize that as sexual assault.’”

After Sessions acknowledged that grabbing a woman without her consent was in fact sexual assault, Leahy said in a statement that: “If we are to continue being a great nation, then survivors of sexual assault deserve to know that their civil and human rights will be protected by the Attorney General of the United States, no matter the circumstances.  Given the divisive rhetoric of the Republican nominee for President last year, many are worried.”

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