There are few words more powerful this election season than those of presidential candidate Donald Trump admitting that he sexually assaulted women, allegedly getting a pass to do so because of his celebrity status. We have heard him pontificate and declare falsehoods about various minorities, which have disgusted and angered many, but this particular audio recording struck a nerve with millions of women and men. Surely, it hit so hard because 1.) too many have endured it themselves, and/ or 2.) many have helped friends or family members deal and recover from it, and/or 3.) the notion of a presidential candidate bragging about violating any woman in such a callous way is so preposterous, there is no other way to react than with alarm.
As men and women look back at their own personal sexually related traumas, they recognize themselves in Trump’s remarks, thinking that even though it’s uncomfortable and even wrong, that it is the status quo and it’s better not to make waves. Unfortunately, what too many don’t realize at the time of the violation is that these events make everlasting impressions on victims’ self-worth. What’s worse, Trump bragged about taking advantage of the sense of familiarity that celebrity status brings with it. And it’s with this sense of familiarity that sexual assault remains a prevalent and important issue in the U.S.
According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), while strangers account for one out of four assaults, nearly three out of four assaults are by a friend or acquaintance, a current or former spouse or significant other or a relative. But now, finally, for the years that victims remained silent, the recent firestorm of outrage across the country over Trump’s audio recording gave many victims the power to confront their own sexual assaults and not be ashamed of the pass that they gave to others to cause harm. While many are still hiding in the shadows of doubt, fear and public shame that come with confronting their perpetrators, for once, they realize that they are not alone. That connection is something that sparks a movement.
While one may argue that the audio recording was only “locker room banter,” merely words, they were not just words to those who accuse him of doing exactly what he said he did. First you say, then you do, or vice versa. Attitudes become behavior, and what we do not confront is seen as something we condone. Because sexual assault doesn’t often leave victims visibly harmed, the fight against sexual assault remains muted, with too many wondering, what’s the actual harm? And to that we say, plenty.
Ironically, October is also Domestic Violence Prevention Month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Considering this major issue coupled with sexual assault, now is the time to come forward to take a stand and let your voice be heard. Over the coming weeks, we encourage readers to send us their personal stories of sexual assault and domestic violence, particularly as it pertains to sexual assault, to be a part of a feature on those issues. All submissions will go through a certain vetting process. For those who wish to remain anonymous, we respect that right in the public arena and will keep submitters’ names private upon request.
For your story to be considered, email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line, sexual assault or domestic violence.