Donald Trump and sexual abuse: America’s standard?
Disclaimer: The following post was written pre- election.
In October 2016, The Washington Post released video of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking candidly on a hot mic in 2005. The above statements are direct quotes. In a statement after the video was released, Trump dismissed the recording as “locker room talk”, which sets a damaging precedent by assuming any backlash is due to the use of the word ‘pussy’ (and not the explicit description of sexual assault), as well as implying that all men engage in similar types of conversation when occupying exclusively male spaces.
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married…Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look”
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — 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 them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Incredibly, this did not affect Trump’s ability to run for the most important office in the world, although the man he was speaking with in 2005, Billy Bush, was suspended after the video was leaked. The President of the United States is supposed to be seen as a role model, if not the role model in this country. Is a President who perpetuates rape culture, rather than condemning it, seen as just as valid a role model as one who fights for victim rights and respect for all genders? Donald Trump, quoted casually discussing groping and kissing women without consent, has a history of disregard for women and their boundaries, including his ex-wife who accused him of rape but subsequently rescinded. Donald Trump consistently reinforces rape culture through his words and actions but is one election away from the most powerful and important job in the world.
Normalizing the idea that women are exclusively sexual objects and one is exempt from requiring consent (provided they possess wealth, power, and status) is one powerful message. It is given more credence when this message is endorsed by prominent political figures. How do we, as a society, promote the message to young men and women that their bodies and minds should be respected, rather than normalizing sexual abuse and bragging about it as appropriate ‘locker room talk’? How do we teach our youth that to “just start kissing” a woman, not “even wait”, or, worse, to “grab” their “pussy” without warning or consent, is sexual assault that is unacceptable, inappropriate and criminal? And similarly, how do we teach young females important lessons- that they are worthy of respect, inside or outside locker rooms, or how to differentiate sexuality and sexual assault? As a clinician and a woman, I can tell you, it certainly is not through potential future president Donald Trump’s recent degrading statements made about woman.
Attempting to redeem himself “It was locker room talk, as I told you. That was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I am a person who has great respect for people, for my family, for the people of this country. And certainly, I’m not proud of it. But that was something that happened.”
Moreover, his statements give insight to a problem larger than the upcoming election- the continuum of perpetuating and normalization of sexual violence. We live in a society where many believe that degrading and demeaning conversations about women are normal and it is acceptable behavior to joke about sexually abusing woman. Some Trump supporters, including young women like Tomi Lahren, who has more than 3 million followers on Facebook at 24, suggest that the main issue is that ‘it’s not that these recordings surprise you or even change your opinion of him, it just doesn’t look good… don’t go around acting holier than thou about this like you’ve never heard anyone say anything like that before’. Plenty of supporters were quick to endorse his statements and attitude. In the video, Trump goes on to explain: “when you are a star they let you do it- you can do anything”. In other words- I will exploit my power and sexually abuse woman by moving fast, giving them less time to consent or resist, which results in letting me do anything. Minimizing the impact of sexual assault, Trump’s initial reaction when confronted is not only insulting but demeaning to woman, implying it is not necessary for the public to examine his words or hold him accountable for them: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago”. Further, as Trump continued to defend himself he stated: “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we are facing today”. If our leading public figures do not see sexual assault as an important issue we are facing, then we, as a society, are participants in rape culture- and this is scary!
Speaking out we have professional athletes who spend more time in locker rooms than Trump ever has- but why aren’t they buying into his apology?
This is not to say there aren’t dissenting voices. Many have identified Trump’s conversation as an archetypical example of his attitude toward women. A number of athletes and sports personalities have refuted the suggestion that his comments were typical of men in a locker room. Others, such as Detroit Lion DeAndre Levy, not only speak out against rape culture but actively work to change attitudes and behavior, as well as funding initiatives that support victims- such as testing abandoned rape kits. Still others have used Trump’s disgusting language as a rallying cry. The more voices within our society who stand up against rape culture and sexual assault, even when it is perpetuated by the most prominent members of our community, the sooner we can work together toward respect and equality for all genders and bodies and set appropriate examples for our youth.