Shannon Goessling Unqualified to Head the Office of Violence Against Women

WASHINGTON – The National Organization for Women (NOW) strongly opposes the nomination of Shannon Goessling, who is unqualified to head the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) in the Department of Justice (DOJ). If confirmed, Goessling would bring detrimental – and even dangerous – views on domestic violence and firearms. We urge senators to oppose this nominee and to insist that an experienced and knowledgeable candidate for the OVW position be considered.

Goessling claims that she worked on pro-bono domestic violence cases for 13 years as a lawyer in Georgia, though court records for Superior Court, Cobb County, indicate that she only worked on one custody modification case during that time. Her only other experience around violence against women is a 7-month stint, twenty years ago, as Director of the Crimes Against Women and Children Prosecution Unit, when she worked for the Assistant District Attorney for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit.

In her 11-year tenure as Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel at the conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF), Goessling advanced anti-gun control, anti-LGBTQ, anti-racial justice, and anti-immigrant cases. Because survivors of domestic and sexual violence also include racial, LGBTQIA and immigrant communities, understanding the challenges these groups face are integral to the job.

Most alarming is the fact that Goessling claims that widespread gun ownership would protect women, though many experts agree that there is a clear link between domestic violence and gun violence. An amicus brief that Southeastern Legal Foundation submitted in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 asserted that widespread gun ownership is means of defense for women, reflective of a long-running campaign of the National Rifle Association. It is an ongoing tragedy that an average of 760 persons are killed with guns by intimate partners each year and more than 80 percent of victims are women. Nearly a thousand women each year are murdered by an intimate partner.

Goessling’s advocacy of socially conservative positions could negatively impact domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, especially those views on immigrants and LGBTQIA persons, child protective services in domestic violence and child support cases, and sexual assault victims.  

The director of OVW is responsible for making critical decisions for 25 key community grant programs totaling $450 million (in 2017), directed at services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Funds go to law enforcement, shelters, tribal authorities, campus programs, transitional housing, legal assistance for victims, training and technical assistance as well as formula grant programs for state, territorial and tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions.

NOW strongly opposes the nomination of Goessling to this integral office, and urges the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose her confirmation.

Contact: NOW Press,, 202-628-8669