The Trump White House Enables Perpetrators Of Sexual Assault
It has been over a year since Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape hit the media. On a hot mic, Trump was caught bragging, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the pussy.”
At the time, it seemed these comments would be the downfall of his campaign. After all, Trump had just confessed to sexually assaulting women. Somehow, though, this admission did not end his presidential run. A person with this astoundingly low regard for women is our president.
Though it is not surprising, it is still disheartening that perpetrators of sexual violence find support and comfort from the Trump administration. Most recently, Sarah Huckabee Sanders took to the podium at a White House press conference and affirmed the official White House position that all of Trump’s accusers are lying.
According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, between only 15.8 and 35 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police. Women often avoid reporting because they are afraid others will not believe them or even retaliate against them. With Huckabee’s comments, the White House used their platform to perpetuate common myths about victims and engage in the very behavior all victims fear in the aftermath of their crimes. Their message is clear: If you speak about your experience, we will shame you.
Even worse, the men who victimize women attempt to frame themselves as the true victim. Trump himself has employed this strategy even though his own comments in the Access Hollywood video corroborate his victims’ stories. Recently he said the allegations were “totally fake news…It’s fake, it’s made-up stuff. And it’s disgraceful what happens.” Thus, he has shifted the disgrace from the act of sexual assault to the act of speaking out and reporting.
The phenomenon of victim-blaming and shaming is well-documented and widespread. Perpetrators and their allies often discredit victims in the aftermath of sexual violence. In 2014, Barbara Bowman, one of Bill Cosby’s accusers, said via Entertainment Weekly, “Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim-blaming when I came forward… The entertainment world is rife with famous men who victimize and then silence young women who look up to them. Even when their victims speak out, the industry and public turn blind eyes.”
Recently, this topic has received even more attention in the wake of the New York Times’ explosive story about Harvey Weinstein’s transgressions. Women have spoken out in great numbers about their experiences being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted, sharing stories they had kept secret for decades. Gwyneth Paltrow explained why she did not speak out sooner, saying via The New York Times, “I thought he was going to fire me.” Another of his victims, Lauren O’Conner, explained, “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein 10.”
For every victim of a high-profile celebrity, there are scores of other victims. After I reported my childhood perpetrator as an adult in 2014, his allies attempted to portray me as a mentally unstable, embittered woman seeking a payout. I was a child victim, police had recorded a conversation of the perpetrator confessing, and this was a criminal, not civil, case; still, I was fair-game for these kinds of attacks. Many share my story. The #MeToo movement on Twitter is a testament to that.
When women try to claim their power by speaking out and seeking justice, their perpetrators scramble to maintain the upper-hand by discrediting and retaliating. Women know this, and many choose not to report because, in the aftermath of a traumatic episode, they do not have the emotional bandwidth to be revictimized.
These latest comments from the Trump White House should not be surprising. Americans elected a president who bragged about sexually assaulting women. Since he has been in office, Trump has attempted to strip victims of rights by repealing important Title IX guidance designed to keep our campuses safer. This recent rhetoric further bolsters Trump’s alliance with perpetrators.
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, abuse, or rape and need to speak with someone, please reach out to one of the organizations below for support, legal advice, and hope. We believe you.