My President, the (Alleged) Rapist

by Melissa Morgan

Elections are destined to disappoint. Someone wins and someone loses; that’s the nature of the game. This election, however, feels violently and distressingly different. This election does not just elicit disappointment – it is deeply troubling for a sense of morality that permeates our lives beyond party or policy, and it reveals to me poignantly that the goodness I believe in does not always triumph.

Like any partisan, I am disappointed when my party does not win. Yet I understand that power is an often-messy game of back-and-forth, that the weaknesses of my party were particularly on display this election cycle, and that surely the Democrats would not hold the Oval Office forever. President Obama’s strides were great, but they failed to touch rural America in the ways that we hoped they would. His shortcomings were tangible for huge swaths of the population, and popular ire toward his legacy could understandably result in a victory for the Republican Party. 

I would be saddened by any Republican win, and particularly fearful for the future of reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, healthcare, the environment, and more issues close to my heart. But a competent, tested, moderate Republican could nevertheless lead our nation with dignity, smarts, and class. I would not agree with many of the policies of a Mitt Romney or a John McCain, but I would not fear that his comments – his very being, and what he has revealed in the American people – make me more unsafe in my own body when I walk down the street alone.

I would surely be disappointed with any Republican win. But this is not a Republican win. This is not a win for American values or American dreams or American exceptionalism. It is a scathing loss for the principles of justice and equality, over which racial hatred, misogyny, and xenophobia have prevailed. It is a profound victory for those who believe that my body is not my own. 

In high school, I founded an organization to combat sexual assault and to educate my peers about rape culture. I dedicated months on end to coordinate a speaker’s presentation, to create videos involving diverse members of the student body, to hold a pledge drive, and to encourage a critical discussion of what rape culture really means for us. Simply, my co-founder and I wanted to speak out against sexual assault – we wanted to make known that rape was to be loudly condemned and that rape victims should find the support and belief that they need to heal. To have invested so much time in sexual assault education, only to watch as the events of this election cycle unfolded, is extraordinarily painful, and this pain will haunt me long past a President Trump’s first hundred days.

I am sure my readers know the basics, but I will recap them with revulsion here:

Donald Trump is a rapist. His first wife attested that he forced her to have sex with him in their divorce proceedings. A different woman who was thirteen when Trump raped her, and who had two eyewitnesses of the event, only just withdrew her case against him. 

Donald Trump has bragged about assaulting women. He has admitted to groping women without their consent, and more than a handful have come forward to verify his claims. Trump may not have been found legally guilty of these crimes to date, but to come forward as a victim of assault is extraordinarily difficult, especially when the assaulter is a powerful man with many supporters who would not hesitate to harass his accusers and to attack their very worth. Incentives for reporting a rape are few given this personal cost, and with most cases resulting in little or no punishment for the assaulter, false accusations are exceedingly rare. If the embodiment of mediocrity in reality television can “do anything,” what can the leader of the free world do? 

His “locker room talk” defense is a sad, weak excuse for his disgusting and demeaning actions toward women. He has repeatedly insulted women for their looks and for too many empty and ridiculous accusations than I can recount. He has cheaply claimed to have only the utmost respect for women, and yet he has objectified his own daughter.

Perhaps worst of all is that Donald Trump is not alone. Millions of Americans – my fellow citizens, voters, and neighbors – are men like him. And it was not only men who voted for him, but millions of women did too. This is not to say that every Trump voter is a rapist, or that every Trump voter actively approves of his character, yet every Trump voter effectively stated that this kind of man is tolerable. Trump’s election is a validation of the worst fears women face when they simply exist in a bar, or in an alley, or with a friend they thought they could trust. My next president is a rapist, and Americans were all too eager to elect him. 

The many revelations of Trump’s true persona did not disappear without comment. Many prominent Republicans rightfully spoke out against Trump’s character and expressed disgust with his assaults of women. But many of those who condemned him only did so with the rhetoric of “I have a sister” or “I have two daughters” or “I have a wife.” There was no “Women are humans and that’s reason enough not to rape them.” The crime was only imagined in relation to a man. Worse still, there was clearly no condemnation among the millions who voted for him. 

The message that a Trump presidency sends is a traumatic one. He did not create the conditions in which a known rapist and misogynist can become President of the United States, but he has certainly revealed them. His sexist tirades have held up a mirror in which we can see the worst of ourselves. 

Why report an assault? You will be mocked. You will be degraded. You will not be believed. 

Why continue to peddle claims that questionable rape accusations will ruin a man’s career, when one with an empty resume and accusers in the double digits can ascend to the Oval Office?

When tapes emerged of Trump’s assaults, Melania stood by her husband, saying that she believed in him and that he was really a good man at heart after all. Republicans vilified Hillary Clinton for doing the same. Why should any woman watching these events have hope that she will find any sympathy, any support, any reassurance that she is not somehow to blame?

Why believe that a woman can be President, when so many do not believe that it is inexcusable, abhorrent, and disqualifying to brag about assaulting one?

That millions of Americans would prefer this man – this man – to become the leader of the free world to the most qualified woman to ever seek the office is not only painful. It is devastating.

 

Photo courtesy of  Lennart Gäbel, "They let you do it"

 

Michele Dale