The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.
With one week until Election Day, everything but policy is dominating the political headlines in the presidential race. Email servers, FBI Director conspiracies, Weiners & wieners – the list of ridiculousness is miles long.
But only the 2016 election cycle could place sexual assault on the forefront in so many abysmal ways. In the last 30 days, numerous women have proclaimed they are victims of the overzealous sexual behavior of Donald Trump, going as far as explicitly stating he took advantage of them. The accusations came shortly after a private conversation between Trump and another man was released, illustrating the colorful language Trump uses when discussing women. [If you haven’t heard any of these things, please tell me where you’re living because I’d love to join you somewhere off the reservation of Hotel California]
Something happened, though, that I don’t think a lot of people saw coming. Republicans who would vote for Donald Trump even if he “shot people in the streets” will defend his character, despite the fact that they’ve never met him or the victims. Democrats who would vote for Hillary even if she had actual blood on her hands are convinced Donald Trump sexual assaulted multiple women. And both in vitriolic ways that seem to have everyone persuaded one way or the other.
What’s been the most disheartening is watching women -potential victims – call other women “liars” while men, who could easily be the accused, assume without a shrivel of evidence that Trump is not just sexually promiscuous, but a full blown rapist.
A few numbers worth noting:
- 1 in 5 women will be assaulted during their college years. The same ratio applies for women and the risk of sexual assault in their lifetime – 1 in 5.
- 63% of sexual assault victims never report their incidents to police making it the most underreported crime in America.
- Only 12% of child sexual assault cases are reported to authorities
- The prevalence of false reports is somewhere between 2% and 8%.
These numbers are reported by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, but can be corroborated by a plethora of other research.
So, why do I mention these statistics that seemingly have no effect or direct correlation to the November election? Sexual assault is a dicey “thing.” It’s also a shameful, but common, “thing.” One thing sexual assault is NOT is a political chess piece.
Having said that, the number one question for Republicans, much like the paralleled Clinton emails, is “Why now?”
In the interest of transparency, I have no dog in this fight. I’m unaffiliated with any political party and have no plans for vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But I do know women who are victims of sexual assault. I also know a man – in the Georgia political arena – who sexually assaulted a female and got away with it. I know that his victim was afraid to come forward for fear of retribution, political and otherwise. I also know that if this man ever sought public office, there would be a campaign to make his actions known – and rightfully so. The timing would, of course, be questioned, but a rise to power would change the circumstances in some victim’s minds. It doesn’t need explanation, or justification, as to why. It simply is what it is.
We have to ask ourselves what kind of tone we’re setting.
Victims of sexual assault, whether male or female, young or old, already have enough reason to fear coming forward. Societal stigmas, professional punishment, shame, and, of course, PTSD symptoms all play a role in the decision of whether or not a victim will report. If you spend any time around victims of this sort, and ask them why they never went to police, their answer will more likely than not be, “I was afraid no one would believe me.” That is, for lack of a better word, a deplorable environment we’ve created.
On the flip side, we all remember the Duke lacrosse players and the travesty of their case – being put through the legal ringer and publicly humiliated for a crime they didn’t commit. In this day and age, the chances that one of us knows someone who has been wrongfully accused or convicted of a crime is pretty high. When we allow public accusations to dominate a conversation, we’re telling the world that guilt or innocence matters not, and in the court of public opinion, the accused will always lose. It’s why lawyers argue for a change in venue for trials.
The media, true to form, is no help to this conundrum.
But the harsh reality is that I don’t want to be the person who called a real victim a liar and I don’t want to be the person who believes a man is guilty because another woman says so. You shouldn’t want to be that person either.
If you’re a Republican, don’t shame the 63% by insisting that their truth will never be heard by someone in a position of superiority. If you’re a Democrat, don’t fan the flame of the 2-8% of accusers who lie to destroy the life of someone trying to climb the ladder can succeed.
We are to judge people by their actions, their words, and what we can prove. You and me, we will never know the truth about what happened. It’s a shame, it’s not politically sound, doesn’t make picking a candidate any easier, and it won’t stop the headlines.But there are so many other things at stake on November 8th. Let’s not create a problem that will long outlast Election Day and have lingering effects on our society.