Some people say that being accused of sexual assault is just as bad as being assaulted. It’s just as damaging, with repercussions that extend into all areas of life. It can limit somebody, prevent them from getting jobs or building relationships. The accusation will destroy a life, just like being raped does.
I think, with the President Elect of the United States having been accused of sexual assaults in the double figures, we can safely conclude that the dangers are not comparable. We know that Trump’s ex-wife accused him of a violent rape, a claim she later withdrew. The fact is that rape culture allows accused abusers to access the most powerful positions in the world with minimal stigma.
Trump has demonstrated that, even when numerous women have made public statements about being groped or assaulted, and even when the man himself admitted to being able to ‘grab women by the pussy’, millions of predominantly white Americans will overlook the abuse if they believe he can protect them from unknown fears of brown people with headscarves or accents.
How egregious did the accusations need to be before the man was too disgraced for the role? How many more accusers would have had to come forward?
The white supremacy that took precedence in American voters’ minds has written off the impact of Trump’s election on survivors of sexual violence. Each and every vote for him is a kick in the teeth to everyone who has been through that experience. Those votes are also offensive to the people who are likely to suffer the worst under a Trump administration: women and minority groups such as people of colour, disabled people and LGBT people.
The data is stark: 53% of white women and 63% of white men voted in favour of Trump.
White people have to take responsibility for enabling his smug victory.
This is why we don’t report
Statistically, we know that men – including (or especially) those in power – get away with a lot of sexual assaults. Conviction rates are dire across the world and victims are frequently humiliated and degraded throughout the legal process.
And, sadly, not every cop is Olivia Benson. Many of us have faced police officers who did not believe, who laughed, who scolded or who ignored. Those who sided with the accused because it was easier, or politically expedient. When the accused is the President of the United States of America, his accusers have little hope of justice.
And women voted for that man. Even when he admitted this behaviour and others confirmed that he had done it to them. Even when his homophobia and disablism and racism are laid bare. Something made those women put aside the unpleasantness and hate, and it is terrifying.
Do we not want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from rape culture and sexual predators?
Do we really want to empower abusers in such an overwhelming way?
How can women justify voting for a man with such questionable attitudes to women?
When Trump himself dismissed his ‘grab her by the pussy’ comments by blaming it on ‘locker room talk’, and men rounded up to join him in saying this was a completely normal comment in the context of a men’s locker room, women knew we were in danger. This wasn’t women blaming men for rape culture, this was men themselves confessing to how deeply entrenched they were in a culture that is so ready to abuse and exploit women that joking about it publicly in male-only environments is par for the course.
“This is what men say when they’re alone!” we kept hearing, as if that made it better instead of worse.
“We are all really dangerous to women” is what we actually heard.
As well as being a display of white supremacy, the male supremacy in the election of Trump is indisputable. Clinton was not a perfect candidate – far from it – but she was notable in being the first woman to ever come this close to presidency. The kickback against her candidacy had many valid points, but the misogyny inherent in a lot of the criticism cannot be denied. I don’t believe her gender was the main reason she was not elected, because I don’t believe Bernie Sanders would have won the day either, but – to sexist voters – it certainly did not help.
Male supremacy is when the country’s leader is able to say that people seeking abortions should suffer ‘some form of punishment’, leaving those with the uteruses responsible for whatever those with penises were wont to do. But grab her by the pussy and laugh about it, right? Who cares about the consequences?
The New York Times talked to a range of women who had had interactions with Trump and found that their accounts “reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct”.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Trump believes that women should be treated like shit. We’ve seen him enact this and we can only anticipate and dread how the next four years will play out for survivors and members of vulnerable and marginalised communities.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons