The very same day President Obama signed legislation that would give rights and protection to sexual assault victims who don’t immediately press charges, The Washington Post released a video of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women.
On a taping of Access Hollywood in 2005, Trump made these comments about how he approaches women.
“When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump said, “Grab them by the p—sy. You can do anything.”
If this tape is the reason people don’t vote for Donald Trump in November, so be it. But, if this is what voters needed to realize Trump’s blatant misogyny, then that speaks for a larger problem of rape culture in this country.
Laila Farah, an associate professor in the department of women and gender studies, said this clip forced many longstanding Trump supporters to finally cut ties.
“That kind of objectification and sexualization is indicative of commodifying women’s bodies, and commodifying them means that they’re consumable,” Farah said. “When you have that mentality, as well as sort of a hyper violence in society, I think that you really have a big problem when it comes to domestic violence, sexual assault, all kinds of gender based violence.”
This is not the first sexual scandal for Trump. His first wife Ivana accused Trump of rape under oath in 1989. She later said that she did not mean to use the word rape in a “literal or criminal” way, but this is often how sexual assault settlements go with high profile celebrities. In order to get a settlement they stay silent to lessen the severity of the original claim.
Trump was sued for sexual harassment in 1997 and has had multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
He has been known to refer to women as pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. In 1992, Trump said “you have to treat ‘em like s–t” in response to dumping an entire bottle of wine on Marie Benner, a journalist who wrote an unfavorable story on the ending of Trump and Ivana’s marriage.
These statements have his supporters on edge, and many Republican politicians have pulled their endorsements for fear of the sanctity of their party. This tape, while new in the sense of direct vulgarity, just solidifies what we already know about Donald Trump.
The tape was used against Trump early on in the second presidential debate on Sunday. He apologized to the American people and the women in his life for his language but he claimed it was just “locker room talk.”
This idea of “locker room talk” perpetuates negative stereotypes about men and sexual assault. It assumes that bragging about sexual assault and sexism is okay if it’s behind closed doors.
But the excuse of “locker room talk” can’t even be used here. For one, this wasn’t a private conversation between two people in a locker room—this was Trump working in a professional environment for a national television show.
“Equating (Trump’s words) to being vulgar or talking about your sexual fantasies or even people you’re sexually attracted to is what is problematic,” said Max Newsom, a senior at DePaul. “I’ve heard people speak in ways that I don’t condone, but it’s not them saying that they assault women.”
Many men have spoken out online that Trump’s words are unacceptable, including former NFL player Chris Kluwe, about what really happens in a locker room, and that regardless of what you say, you have to be accountable for your words and actions.
“It is important for men to come out and say that is not me…that is not my friends,” said Farah, “I think that this is a moment for men to come forward-not to necessarily say (they’re) feminist…but simply to say (they’re) decent human being(s) and that this is not endemic to men.”
Words have power, and deflecting it as “just talk,” as Trump did in the town hall debate, can make potentially harmful language seem harmless.
“If the man who is running for president, who is an example of the best this country has to offer, is saying these things, than that means it’s okay,” said Bri Schwartz, a sophomore dramaturgy and women’s and gender studies student. “If he can be this successful in everything that he’s doing and make comments like that, it makes it okay for other guys.”
How we handle sexual assault is a national problem, but this rhetoric has the power to influence how we handle sexual assault on our campus.
“This is not just a DePaul problem, but it is DePaul’s problem,” Farah said.
Fourteen cases of sexual assault have been recorded at DePaul in the 2015-16 school year. This is the highest number of sexual assaults recorded on both its Lincoln Park and Loop campuses.
“I think that this is a perfect opportunity for DePaul to call on folks like women’s and gender studies faculty and other people from sociology and psychology, from social work, from peace studies, and to have these conversations,” said Farah. “It’s not enough to have these conversations for 30 minutes or an hour at freshman orientation.
Belittling serious offences, like Trump’s vocalized sexism, makes a conversation about sexual assault that much harder to have. If sexual assault is seen as the norm in society, those who have the power to help them will not take survivors seriously.
Just after the 96th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave white women the right to vote in the United States in 1920, Republican voters took to twitter to discuss the effects of the women’s suffrage movement on their party. Fox News tweeted a poll on Wednesday that suggested that Trump would win the presidency if only men voted in the 2016 election, resulting in a storm of tweets from Trump supporters with the #RepealThe19th.
The same day the tape was leaked, President Obama signed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act into legislation. Due to the stigma of sexual assault in this country many survivors don’t press charges right away. Now, because of this bill, sexual assault survivors can have access to protected rape kits and forensic evidence even before filing a police report, which before would have resulted in fees or upright dismissal.
It is shocking to see the difference in how our government treats sexual assault versus our potential political leaders. It’s taken a long time for sexual assault victims to get proper assistance, and this is mainly due to the deep stigma we still have about it in our culture, and is something that Trump’s comments can only perpetuate.
This is something that we need to work on as a nation and as a university. We need to change how we address sexual assault prevention as well as how we help survivors, not only on our campus, but also on campuses and homes across the country.