Rep. Gwen Moore Recalls Sexual Assaults In House Speech

Democratic Rep. tells personal story of rape, hits GOP war against women


March 28th, 2012
05:27 PM ET

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CNN’s Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh

Washington (CNN) – It is not something you expect to hear on the floor of the House of Representatives – a lawmaker recounting a remarkably personal story of being raped.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin, talked about what she called “terrible memories” of high school boys making a bet in the locker room that she “couldn’t be had.”

“Then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn’t going to be so willing, completed a date rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys,” Moore told the House chamber Wednesday.

Moore had told the story before, including earlier in the day at a press conference, but this was the first time she did so on the House floor, according to a spokeswoman.

She brought it up as part of an effort by female lawmakers to keep alive a central Democratic message against the GOP – what they call the Republican “war on women.”

Wednesday’s chapter in that Democratic playbook: claim that Republicans are against extending the historically bipartisan Violence Against Women Act.

House Democrats used a procedural maneuver to try to bring a Senate Democratic version of the measure to the House floor.

They were beaten back by the GOP led House, but Democrats got what they wanted politically: attention.

And as evidence that Democrats plan to use the issue in the fall elections, hours after the vote the House Democrats’ campaign arm blasted out a “vote alert” targeting New York Republican Rep. Bob Turner. The email highlighted the legislation once had bipartisan support, but said Turner “voted against considering renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, showing again he has all the wrong priorities.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, the only female in the GOP leadership, called the Democrats move a “distraction.”

“They are manufacturing this war on women because the Democrats know that the Republicans won the women’s vote in 2010. It was largely driven by two issues, the health care bill that women opposed, and the economy and the fact that women are starting businesses in this country and understand the challenges,” said McMorris Rogers.

Speaking about the Violence Against Women Act, McMorris Rodgers said, “this is legislation that has long enjoyed bipartisan support and nothing has changed.”

That is true, however there is currently a partisan divide over expanding the law. Many Democrats want to broaden it to include illegal immigrants, and gays and lesbians.

Two weeks ago, Democratic women in the Senate mounted their own public relations offensive on this issue, coming to the Senate floor to blast Republicans who opposed those expansions.
Just like the House Democrats’ move Wednesday, their goal was to keep the political message alive that Republicans have it out for women.

“Women being battered has no place to go and often stayed in the home where they were battered again and again. This bill also provides support for state agencies, rape crisis centers, and organizations that provide services to vulnerable women and American women are safer because we took action,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein on March 15.

But few of the political speeches Democratic women have made on this issue have been as personal and pointed as Moore’s.

At a press conference with House Democratic women earlier Wednesday, she talked more about her own experience.

“Violence has been a thread throughout my entire life, from being repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped as a child up to and including as an adult having the boys sit around locker room in gym and bet that I couldn’t be had, and when the appointed boy was finding that he was not getting very far with me decided that this was a good opportunity for a date rape and to take my underwear back as a trophy of his accomplishment,” said Moore.

Moore’s spokeswoman told CNN that rape resulted in pregnancy and her now 40 plus year old son.

The Democrats political strategy to go after Republicans as anti-women took off in and around the debate over whether women should be able to get free contraception as part of the new health care law.

In a clear effort to rebut that, McMorris Rodgers was joined by several Republican women at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“Whether it is spending, whether it is the cost of your health insurance, whether it is the price at the pump, this administration is too expensive to afford. The moms of America know it and we’re continuing the fight on their behalf,” said Rep Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee.

“There was a movie a few years back called ‘What Women Want,’ well I’ll tell you what I hear from women that they want. They want freedom for themselves and their kids. They want to make health care decisions for themselves and for their families.” argued Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming.

But some GOP female lawmakers are concerned politically. “I think that my party is in an unfortunate place right now as viewed by many, many women in this country who are feeling very anxious about what they believe to be attacks on women’s health,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told CNN in a recent interview.

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