Amita Swadhin*, a survivor of child sexual abuse, who is also a queer woman of color, testified today (January 11) before the Senate Judiciary Committee for nearly six minutes to tell her story—and how she believes it serves as a reminder of why Sen. Jeff Sessions should not serve as attorney general for the Department of Justice. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) also testified against the nominee.
The National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence nominated Swadhin to speak after the Democrats in the committee asked that they put someone forward. She's been telling her story for 20 years to help herself—and others—heal. "Recovery can begin when we feel witnessed, believed and in community with others who can relate to our experience," her website states.
In her testimony, Swadhin pointed specifically to Sessions’ denial that President-elect Donald Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” remarks described sexual assault. "Millions of sexual assault survivors were triggered in the wake of these events," she said before the Senate committee. "I was one of those survivors: My father raped me at least once a week from age 4 to age 12."
Colorlines spoke with Swadhin after she gave testimony. Below, in her own words, she details the experience.
Sen. Sessions, to my knowledge, was not in the room, so I did not have to look at him.
What was challenging, or somewhat intimidating, was that Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with five other members of the judiciary committee on the Republican side, personally voted against the Violence Against Women Act. So I was speaking with people who agreed with Sessions on that. Of course, speaking so freely about being raped by my father, on national TV, on public record is not easy, even though I’ve been doing it for 20 years. It’s always just a little bit hard.
It’s been a whirlwind of a day. I’ve never testified in front of the Senate before. I’ve never been open to questions before from elected officials about my work or my personal story, so not knowing if anyone was going to ask me a question and not knowing whom the questions would come from—if they were directed at me—was a little bit nerve-wracking because I had to prepare for antagonistic questions or try to anticipate what those might be because if the Republican senators had decided to go down that path, it was fair game.
I am not going to be surprised if Sessions gets confirmed. Of course, I will be disappointed. I agreed to testify because it’s really important for there to be public record that there was resistance to his nomination both from the grassroots, along with our allies who are elected officials.
To share my story as a representative of the large community of millions of survivors of sexual violence in this country and to speak on behalf of LGBTQ people and children of immigrants and people of color is just such an awesome responsibility. I feel quite honored and privileged to be called upon in that capacity.
*The post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Amita Swadhin's name. It is Swadhin, not Swadhim.