Sexual violence is unacceptable, especially in new, changing political atmosphere

By Alex Pinsk || Assistant Opinion & Editorial Editor

I would rather not repeat all of the repressive comments that Donald Trump has made regarding women. You have all heard them. Some of you have thought about them. Many of you have shrugged them off with a simple, “oh well, no one is perfect.” And about half of you have felt violated by them.

No, I would rather not repeat these vile statements, but I feel I need to. Physically objectifying women, Trump said male celebrities can “grab them [women] by the pussy…You can do anything” according to an Access Hollywood tape exposed on October 7th. Saying that it is okay to physically assault women is inappropriate and unacceptable. It is verbal harassment to women everywhere, and coming from our country’s future leader, it is horrifying. However, the objectification aspect of his verbal harassment is only one element. Equally disturbing were his comments concerning Clinton’s advantages in the election. According to Politico Magazine, in April of 2016 Trump said to a “crowd of his supporters” that “the only thing she’s got going is the ‘woman card’” about Hillary Clinton. Many would take this as him insinuating that Clinton has no other assets or strengths and would not be in the political position she is in were she not a woman is degrading and false. Namely, it seems to me that he thinks that women are unintelligent and incapable of running for political office; they are only receiving votes because they are not men, i.e. because people want something new and radical. Thirdly, I would like to bring to your attention Trump’s opinion that sexual assault is an inevitable consequence of our country permitting women to serve alongside men in the military. In a tweet that he posted on May 7, 2013, he says “26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” according to CNN News. I would interpret this opinion as Trump saying that women are objects and that sexual assault is going to happen no matter what, that rape is normal. Sexual assault is not normal, should not be normal, and cannot be considered normal if we intend to move forward as a country. How are we as people supposed to cultivate an equal society when our future president champions this “rape culture”?

According to the Rape Crisis Centre, in Emilie Buchwald’s book, Transforming a Rape Culture, she describes rape culture as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable.” Put simply, sexual violence is considered to be acceptable and there are rarely consequences for those who initiate this violence. We live in a society where rape is not uncommon. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “[o]ne in five women…will be raped at some point in their lives,…”[o]ne in four girls…will be sexually abused before they turn 18”, and… “[m]ore than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.” Though there are instances in which men are also the victims of rape,  for the purposes of this article, I am writing solely about women. I do not think people quite understand these statistics. If you have 5 friends who are girls, about one of them have been or will be raped. This is an insufferably large percentage and downright unacceptable especially in the United States, in this progressive culture of which we claim to be a part of.

What is interesting, however, is that according to Emilie Buchwald, “much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.” This statement sounds like a positive one and may give some of you a sense of relief, thinking that our country can change. Alas, we elected a president who upholds this rape culture, whether he admits to it or not. So, yes, our “values and attitudes” may change, but the reality is that they are likely to change in a negative way. People presumably will notice that Trump is condoning an inappropriate and hurtful dialogue about sexual assault, verbal and physical, and assume that it is okay. When the leader of our country is acting in this way, it is unfortunately inevitable for others to follow his lead.

Why does this matter? It matters because it is our responsibility as people and as college-educated students to defend what we know is right, to understand how unacceptable sexual assault is, to be aware of the language we use, in order to support and respect women. Women need to look out for each other, and ensure that they receive the respect they deserve, and men need to be advocates for gender equality. No matter to what extent our country’s dynamic may change over the next four years, no matter who we associate with, no matter who is in office, some things are never okay. Sexual assault of any kind is never okay, is never justified, ever.

First-year Alex Pinsk is the Assistant Opinion & Editorial Editor. Her email is mpinsk@fandm.edu.

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