In recent years, we’ve seen great victories against sexism, with big names like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Emma Watson wielding their celebrity to help guide us toward a world more inclusive of women, that provides equal opportunities for education, employment, and basic civil liberties. Women in America really felt like we were making progress when earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden wrote a letter to the Stanford University rape victim and rewrote the rulebook on college sexual assault with President Obama. In Trump's America, many worry that this progress will be completely lost—especially survivors of sexual violence.
When footage of the billionaire bragging about sexual assault was leaked by the Washington Post, it activated a national discussion about sexism in the election and the effect of Trump’s objectification of women. A recent poll concluded that nearly half of teenage girls said Trump's disparaging remarks have had a negative effect on the way they view their bodies. During Trump's campaign season, rape crisis centers have even seen a spike in calls and services.
Complex spoke to Indira Henard, executive director of the DC Rape Crisis Center, who says that the center receives an average of 300 hotline calls a month, but has seen “a significant increase—around 15 percent—over the last few months.”
“Even since [Election] night we’ve seen an increase,” Henard says, “so it shows you just in general that the language and the rhetoric around sexual violence, around 'locker room talk' has triggered trauma within folks, and even folks who are not survivors of sexual violence have been impacted.” Even if Trump's comments only affected sexual assault survivors, that would impact a big part of our population. According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes and one out of every six women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
the language and the rhetoric around sexual violence, around “locker room talk” has triggered trauma within folks.
So far, 11 women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump. On what the president-elect described in the hot mic tapes, Henard says, “I can’t comment personally, but [from] what the media is saying, it was the textbook definition of sexual assault.”
As in the case of Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s slap on the wrist and Woody Allen and Roman Polanski’s continued idol worship, rape culture and white privilege are so institutionally protected that they bulldoze victims’ individual rights. By electing Trump, America is allowing the continued silencing of victims of sexual assaults. If you’re the type of man who can only understand that in relation to yourself, that means one in six of your “daughters or wives or girlfriends or cousins” has experienced attempted or completed rape—and aren’t likely to see justice.
According to RAINN, out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. And Trump, a notoriously litigious billionaire who just became the president-elect despite receiving less popular votes than Hillary Clinton, is the least likely man in America to be held accountable for crimes against women.
Trump’s own ex-wife wrote a detailed account of sexual violation at his hands, but voters—overwhelmingly white and male ones—chose to reify the idea that power is more important than justice. Trump's voters agreed that assault allegations in the double-digits can't put a dent in the career of a man with a lot of money. (And in case you were wondering what misogyny looks like in everyday life, there’s no better example than the most qualified woman for the job losing to the least qualified man in the world.)
On November 4, the woman who accused Trump of raping her when she was 13 dropped charges. Her attorney, Lisa Bloom, cited “numerous threats” against her client, according to the Guardian. Doe reportedly had an eyewitness to all aspects of her claim, which is particularly rare and damning in a rape case. “She has been here all day, ready to do it, but unfortunately, she is in terrible fear,” Bloom said.
Now, more than ever, survivors need to know that they have advocates—because the government won’t protect them. A lot of Americans voted for Trump, but most didn’t. Those who tried their hardest to stop him were ones most endangered by his rhetoric and supporters.
“In a season where [sexual violence] has become a part of the national conversation, the relevance of the rape crisis center has become quite clear,” Henard says. “We will continue to advocate in support of survivors of sexual assault. We will listen and be supportive. And let survivors know that they are not alone, that they do have advocates ... who will continue to fight.”
If you would like to talk with someone at the DC Rape Crisis Center for civic engagement opportunities, volunteering, internships, or fellowships, please call (202.470.0789) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.