Disrespecting your roots
Cuccinelli’s actions give the lie to his claims that he supports women’s rights
Ken Cuccinelli has recently defended himself in his gubernatorial campaign against accusations that his positions are anti-woman by pointing to his involvement in starting the group Sexual Assault Facts and Education (SAFE) on Grounds at the University of Virginia while he was a student. As vice president of One Less, an organization that the University created last year through the union of SAFE and Sexual Assault Peer Advocacy (SAPA), I feel that his involvement in sexual assault prevention during his time at the University only makes his poor track record on women’s issues as a state senator, attorney general, and a gubernatorial candidate even more egregious.
As attorney general, Cuccinelli was one of just three attorneys general in the entire country refuse to sign onto a letter encouraging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. This law is critical for protecting women from domestic abuse and sexual assault. The newly reauthorized law will provide $1.6 billion toward the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and, according to the Washington Times, it provided Virginia with $4.7 million in grants since 2010. Cuccinelli claims on the campaign trail that he nearly witnessed an attempted sexual assault on Grounds, inspiring him to become an advocate. But then as a politician he refused to support one of the most successful prevention efforts against sexual violence in recent history.
A second major discrepancy between Cuccinelli’s rhetoric about his college days and his political track record is his stance against abortion even in cases of rape and incest. He even supports so-called “personhood” legislation that states “life begins at fertilization.” This stance is problematic because not only would it outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, but medical experts have stated this legislation could be used to deny access to common forms of birth control, including the pill.
Cuccinelli’s references to his participation in a vigil for survivors of sexual assault during his time at the University are an even harder pill to swallow given how he has spent his time in elected office in the years since. Having been involved in organizing the University’s Take Back the Night vigil for sexual assault survivors for the past two years, I know firsthand what an important and moving experience it is. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone involved in such an event could then build Cuccinelli’s resume of attacking women’s access to health care and ability to make their own health care decisions.
Ken Cuccinelli’s comments about his role in founding SAFE make his career-long anti-women’s rights agenda even more saddening. He is intimately familiar with the challenges women face today — both on Grounds and throughout the Commonwealth — and yet he wants to stack the deck against us. His record speaks for itself. He has turned his back on these priorities as a state senator, attorney general, and now sadly, as he runs for governor. If Ken Cuccinelli really created the change that he claims he did at the University, how could he fall so short of implementing that change in office?
Caroline Bartholomew is a fourth-year College student and the vice president of One Less.