Neomi Rao's Claims About Date Rape Are Under Fire For Putting The Blame On Women

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The woman that President Donald Trump has nominated to replace Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has a long paper trail detailing her views on a swath of issues, including sexual assault. In an op-ed she wrote for The Yale Herald in October of 1994, Neomi Rao's claims about date rape suggest women are partially responsible for their assaults. And the troubling assertions don't end there.

“I’ve been to a lot of fraternity parties on this campus," Rao wrote at the time, according to a PDF of the op-ed shared by BuzzFeed News. "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."

Rao is the current head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, within the White House Office of Management and Budget. The D.C. Circuit is widely seen by many as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. And according to a Politico report, Rao is on the list of potential nominees to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, should the elderly justice die or leave her position in the relatively near future.

In her 1994 op-ed about date rape, Rao contended that female rape victims who were heavily intoxicated at the time are also responsible for the attack if they knowingly drank too much. "Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink," she wrote. "And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice."

While the arguments contained her op-ed are inherently problematic, they are compounded by the fact that she has been nominated to replace Kavanaugh, a fellow Yale alumnus whose Supreme Court confirmation was wrought with accusations of party-related sexual assault. Kavanaugh vehemently and repeatedly denied every sexual assault and misconduct allegation made against him. ("I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone," Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Not in high school, not in college, not ever. Sexual assault is horrific.") After several Senate hearings, including one with accuser Christine Blasey Ford, he was confirmed to the bench in early October.

The op-eds that Rao wrote in the early 90's, as both a student and recent graduate, touched on a number of sensitive subjects, including affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, and race, the latter of which she reportedly described as a "hot, money-making issue," according to BuzzFeed. In a separate Yale Herald column dissecting the relationship between two campus LGBTQ groups, Rao wrote that "trendy political movements have only recently added sexuality to the standard checklist of traits requiring tolerance."

The White House is widely expected to double-down on Rao's nomination, but it's too early to know when a potential confirmation hearing would take place. But given the widespread controversy that ensued as Kavanaugh prepared to leave the position, it's likely that all eyes will be on his replacement proceedings.