It is estimated that one out of every three women has been the victim of sexual harassment at work. Similarly, an estimated 20 to 25 percent of female college students are victims of a completed or attempted rape over the course of their college careers.
These numbers are staggering, and they are numbers that should spur outrage and compel reform. Sexual assault and harassment are too common and too devastating to be ignored.
This recording prompted millions of survivors of sexual assault to share their stories using the hashtag #NotOkay. And while survivors everywhere spoke out courageously, Trump’s comments and the attention surrounding them served as triggers for anxiety or PTSD for many survivors as well.
The dismissal of these lewd, threatening and offensive comments as “locker room talk” is unacceptable. Normalizing these comments perpetuates rape culture and degrades accountability for the perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment.
A number of GOP leaders spoke out against Trump’s comments, but some of their statements were unsatisfactory. Specifically, a number of the statements condemned Trump’s remarks by connecting them to women as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.
For example, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prefaced his condemnation with “As the father of three daughters…” Similarly, Ben Carson stated, “We should always honor and respect the dignity of our mothers, sisters and daughters.”
While Republican voices speaking out against the degradation and utter disrespect of women demonstrated in Trump’s comments are critical, it is problematic to argue that women deserve respect because of their relationships with men – as mothers, daughters, wives, etc. Women deserve respect external to their relationships with any other person. Women deserve respect because we are human beings.
Unfortunately, this respect is often withheld. Sexual harassment affects both men and women, but evidence demonstrates that women are more likely to normalize “bothersome” harassment. Women should not have to work, study or live in environments that force them to accept harassment because “that’s just how it is.”
Trump himself has implied that it is the responsibility of the victims of sexual harassment to simply find a new job. Allowing the perpetrators of sexual harassment to evade responsibility in this way is shameful.
This election has brought attention to issues far too many women will face personally in their lifetimes. The suffering and strength of survivors are too great and the consequences of inaction are too large to let these issues persist.
After November 8th, we cannot let sexual assault fade into the background once again. The outrage so many Americans felt after hearing Trump’s comments should serve as fuel to address the broader issues of victim blaming and rape culture throughout our society. College students in particular can work to demand policy reforms and a culture shift.
It’s important to remember that the words our politicians say echo throughout our country, and they have huge implications. We can choose to address sexual assault and harassment head-on, or we can choose to accept rhetoric that promotes it.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.