Numerous women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against presidential candidate Donald Trump over the past two weeks, following his explicit denials during the Oct. 9 presidential debate. Following the reports, Trump has denied the accusations and described himself as the victim of a grand media conspiracy to thwart his campaign or, as he calls it, “the greatest movement in the history of our country.” In an example of sheer hypocrisy, Trump has shamed and berated the victims of sexual assault for falsifying their victimization and has also asked for sympathy from voters as he victimizes himself.
For college students, sexual assault is a familiar topic; when one in five women and one in 16 men are assaulted in college, it becomes nearly impossible to attend a university without having been affected by the issue in some way. Yet despite its prevalence, sexual assault remains under-reported — with only 16 to 35 percent of assaults reported to the police — and under-prosecuted — and only nine percent of all rapists appearing in court. Many choose to attribute this data to lack of severity and the frequent falsehood of sexual assault claims, but this viewpoint is the very reason that victims often choose not to report. There is a clear correlation between the negative public response to sexual assault cases and the lack of reporting on behalf of the victims.
Victim blaming is a tactic used to devalue the criminality of an occurrence and the accused by holding the victim primarily responsible. In the case of sexual assault, it exists through questions about the victim’s clothing, sobriety, demeanor or motives and it serves to discredit the survivors of sexual assault and the reality of their experiences. Victim blaming encourages survivors to feel ashamed of their experiences because it tells them that they are responsible, thus robbing them of public platforms to discuss, cope and receive retribution for what has been done to them.
In such a fashion, Trump has blamed, discredited and mocked his accusers in an attempt to ignore his own accountability and criminality. Rather than address the issue with serious consideration of the claims of those he assaulted, he has chosen to deny all reports, without explicit mention of what they are, and to degrade his accusers based on their appearance. Even more incredulously, he has suggested that he is the real victim of the situation; not only is he depriving his accusers of the credibility they deserve, he is robbing them of their title of victim and awarding it to himself. In his campaign to fill the role of president,Trump has instead acted as the blameless, harmless assaulter so common in the narrative of sexual assault.
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