Neomi Rao distanced herself from comments about rape she made as an undergraduate student at Yale, in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 11.
She wrote to recognize the “unique harms of sexual assault and the evolution in my thinking” over the past two decades, Rao, nominated to take Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s former seat at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, said. The D.C. Circuit is considered by many to be the most influential court after the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rao wrote in 1994 that a “good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober,” prompting scrutiny from Democratic and Republican senators at Rao’s confirmation hearing Feb. 5.
The responsibility for rape lies with the rapist, Rao’s letter to the committee said. “I believed that as a college student and continue to believe that today.”
No one “should be subject to sexual violence, regardless of the clothes they wear or how much alcohol they consumed,” Rao, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, said.
Rao apologized for anything she said to the contrary.
The nominee is administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and received the ABA’s highest rating of “Well Qualified.”
But Democrats have criticized her for lacking trial and judicial experience.
Rao said she’s matured since her “sheltered” time at college. Being a mother of two children shifted her perspective, she said.
Rao also described the influence of her late mother, who worked at a Michigan women’s center focused on ending domestic and sexual violence.
“Her experience with that organization and the survivors who came to the center opened my eyes to suffering,” Rao said.