As we know, Donald Trump’s treatment of women has recently been called into serious question. First, there was the tape that was released that showed his lewd, disgusting comments about how he can do whatever he wants to women because he is famous. Following these comments, multiple women have come forward claiming that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by Donald Trump over the years.
New York Magazine published a list that was put together by The Cut detailing every incident, both old and new, that Trump has been accused of in regard to mistreating women; this includes his derogatory comments, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape. When I counted the list, there were 23 separate incidents. He now claims that all of the newer accusations are false, except for his remarks that were caught on tape, and that he is going to sue every one of the women that has come forward claiming to have been assaulted or harassed. Nice, right? The only positive spin one can take on the whole thing is that with all of these women coming forward against Trump, it has led to other women feeling comfortable enough to come forward about what happened to them with powerful men.
One of those women is Moira Smith, and she has come forward and accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her at a dinner party in 1999. He was a sitting Supreme Court justice at the time. The woman who accused him was only 24 when all of this happened, and Thomas claims that the allegations are false. Now, just as a reminder, this is the same Clarence Thomas whose confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1991 was severely contested due to the trial with Anita Hill, the young woman who accused him of sexually harassing her when they used to work together.
There are similar arguments being presented to defend these men that I would like to address. First, many are claiming that these are their personal lives, and we need to leave them alone. I agree that a lot of politicians' personal lives should be kept private, but there is a fine line. For example, details of a marriage, issues with children, any family crises, etc., are personal and should be kept private. However, when we are talking about sexual harassment and assault, there is no gray area there. These actions are despicable, illegal and need to be taken seriously. These men do not have the right to treat women however they want. The American people deserve to know what kind of people they’re placing their faith in; we recognize that politicians are people too and that they make mistakes, but that does not excuse this kind of behavior.
Another argument defending these men is to question the women’s accusations. Why are they just coming forward now? For some of them, it has been over 20 years since the incidents to which they are referring. What bothers me so much about this type of defense is that the people saying this and questioning these women have never been victims of sexual harassment or assault themselves. They have never known the emotions that go along with that experience.
Until you have experienced that in any way, you do not have the right to question these women on why they have not come forward until now. I cannot imagine the pain and confusion of trying to figure out how to handle a situation like that, especially when the accused is someone as powerful as Donald Trump or Clarence Thomas. These men have a level of power that is intimidating, a level of power in which their word means a lot.
As a woman, I would be worried about anyone believing me. But I do not know what these women were feeling; no one does. I can only imagine the courage it has taken to come forward. I think it is important that we all recognize that we cannot begin to know what they have felt over the years or were feeling in the moment, so we have no right to tell them when they can and cannot come forward.
It is important for women everywhere that we take the words of these women as true until there is anything to prove otherwise; not the other way around. We need everyone to feel like they live in a society where, if they do become a victim of sexual harassment, assault or rape, they will be taken seriously. These men need to recognize that no level of power, money or authority can excuse an action like this one. They need to recognize that this is not okay for anyone, but especially not for a sitting Supreme Court justice or a man looking for America to elect him as president of the United States.
There is so much we must change about rape culture in this country, and that can start with not immediately doubting victims, holding powerful men accountable and not judging victims when we have absolutely no idea what they are experiencing. Only then can we face the issues that have created this culture in the first place which results in men like Donald Trump thinking they can do whatever they want to women because they are famous.