Nebraska Lawmaker Steve Halloran Inserts Colleague’s Name at Rape Scene

Photo of author


During a debate over an obscenity bill in the Nebraska legislature, Sen. Steve Halloran (R) read aloud a graphic passage describing sexual violence and inserted a colleague’s name into the text, prompting calls of his resignation. from across the political spectrum.

Before he began reading, he turned to “Senator Cavanaughs,” referring to Senators Machaela (D) and John Cavanaugh (D), who are brothers, and said he would read a book, Alice Sebold’s memoir, “Lucky,” which a proponent of the bill had read in a previous hearing.

However, while reciting the passage, Halloran inserted the name “Senator Cavanaugh” into passages that described a woman being raped, at one point using the name directly after a character asks for a graphic sex act. It was unclear which Cavanaugh was referring to.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh addressed the chamber through tears, describing Monday night’s incident as harassment and calling it “unbecoming of [Halloran] and unbecoming of this body.”

“I have done nothing but try to have a respectful debate with Sen. Albrecht about his bill that affects my children,” Cavanaugh said, referring to state Sen. Joni Albrecht (R), who introduced the bill, which seeks to prevent teachers and librarians from sharing “obscene” material even for educational purposes. “It was very out of character, unnecessary and disgusting to say my name over and over again like that.” She added that there are women in the legislature who have suffered sexual violence.

State Senators Megan Hunt (I) and julie slama (R) publicly called for Halloran’s resignation on the social platform X. Hunt saying It was “pure aggression reading a rape scene out loud and expressing it like that.”

Precious McKesson, leader of the Nebraska Democratic Party, called the incident “unacceptable” in X, urging Halloran to “resign now.”

Halloran, Machaela and John Cavanaugh did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At the time of the incident, lawmakers were discussing Bill 441, which would eliminate an exception to the state’s obscenity law for teachers and librarians in non-postsecondary educational settings who share material for educational purposes. The bill describes “obscene” as work that appeals to “prurient interest” or describes sexual conduct in an offensive manner and “lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” Opponents of the bill say it threatens teachers and librarians from putting certain books on their shelves.

The bill comes amid increased attempts to impose restrictions on reading materials in schools and libraries across the United States. In 2023, there was a 65 percent increase in titles targeted for censorship from 2022, according to the American Library Association. reported last week.

“Lucky” by Alice Sebold was number 42 more prohibited book in the United States during the 2021-22 school year, according to PEN America data reported by CBS News.

Albrecht apologized to Cavanaugh on camera. “I was mortified that you, whether his name was on it, was not right,” he said, going on to use it as an example of why such materials should not be allowed in schools. “I’m sorry we have to read something like this,” he said.

Sebold’s “Lucky,” in which she tells the story of her rape during her freshman year of college, has faced controversy before. Anthony Broadwater, convicted of the rape in 1981, was exonerated in 2021 after spending 16 years in prison and years on the sex offender registry, leading the book’s publisher to stop distributing it.

writing in WBUR Last year, Boston University associate professor Joshua Pederson said the book offers “a vital perspective on both the trauma of rape and the sexual assault crisis still unfolding on our campuses,” and continues being important, perhaps even more so, after the controversy. reflecting failures in the justice system and challenging the need for “clear ideas about trauma and victimization.”

Sen. John Cavanaugh said Halloran “missed the point” in the comments he made. on the floor. “There are graphic scenes in the books. There are graphic things that happen to people in life, and the stories have context and give meaning to the people who read them, who feel alone,” Cavanaugh said.

“The thing,” he added, “is that we can’t make a blanket decision about what has value and to whom it has value.”

Shortly after the incident, the legislature adjourned early.

Leave a comment