Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When the American Presidential Election Collides With Rape Culture


As if this election wasn't already wrought with issues of gender, misogyny, feminism, and the patriarchy, the nation is finally starting to talk about the sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump. And when I say "talk about it," I mean get instantly angry, use hateful words, and perpetuate rape culture. Ahh, good times. 

Recently, the uber-liberal group, Forward, posted on Facebook that "a federal lawsuit accusing Trump of raping a 13-year-old girl" is in the early stages, and a pre-trial conference is scheduled for October 14th, along with a suggestive (and perhaps misleading) photo of his young daughter giving him a kiss on the cheek. .... And then Facebook went bananas. Trump haters calling him vile names and demanding his head on a platter. Trump fans denying that their fearless leader could ever be guilty of such a crime and blaming Hillary for this "stunt."

First, I want to point out that this is not new information. We've known about these allegations for a long time. So no one is pulling a stunt a month before the election. Second, let's take Trump out of the equation for a moment and just talk about rape culture in America, shall we?

I've noticed on social media that people on both sides of this controversial election are quick to roll their eyes about this. Even many of my peeps in the #NeverTrump camp are jumping to assume his accuser is lying. This is where I get boiling mad and try not to yell. And, of course, I fail and starting yelling because REALLY??!!

This isn't just about Trump; this is every rape case EVER. If the woman can't prove it, then it didn't happen. But here's the thing with rape and sexual assault - they're nearly impossible to prove. For example, imagine you see me stealing money out of your wallet, but I claim that I didn't do it and it was my money all along. Then it's your word against mine. You can't prove I took your money, so no one believes you. They accuse you of lying, of trying to get attention, of actually trying to take money from ME. They call you a thief and a liar and an attention whore and rake you over the coals for having the audacity to accuse me of stealing.... 

... But that doesn't mean I didn't steal your money. You saw me. You know I did it. Sucks for you that you can't prove it. Your money's mine now. And since I got away with it, I will just keep stealing money from people. (For an even more excellent analogy of this, please check out Nafisa Ahmed's (@thatxxvtweets about the "five dollars." Su-freaking-perb!) 

This is why most victims of rape and sexual assault don't even try to get justice. What's the point? They just get victimized all over again by our judicial system. And on the occasion when a man is convicted, he often gets only a slap on the wrist. (Hey, Brock. How were your ten minutes on the inside? F**ker.) So often there are no real consequences for the attacker. 

Now, bringing this whole thing back to Trump --- Why is it so hard to believe that a rich, white man raped a girl? There's no denying that RICH + WHITE + MALE = the ultimate trifecta of power and privilege. Who would get away with rape (or anything else, for that matter) easier than a rich, white man? We're so quick to believe that all rapists are Black (or Mexican according to Trump) men who wear hoodies and jump out of bushes to attack white women on the sidewalk. Sorry, but if that's what you think all rape is like, you've watched way too much bad TV. 

Here are some "reasons" I've heard as to why Trump's accuser must be lying:

1. If this were true, she would have come forward years ago.
Um, nope. Rape and sexual assault victims do not come forward for a variety of reasons. See my comments about the trifecta above, and also please read this amazing article about why rape victims - this one in particular - choose to remain silent. I'd like to think that I would finally speak up if the one who hurt me years ago was running for president. I mean, if anything is going to finally give a victim cause to speak out, the risk that her rapist might become president of our country might just do the trick. 

2. If this were true, it would have come out in the debate.
Um, nope again. Do you even know how debates work? Remember the "great restraint" Trump says he exercised by not bringing up Bill Clinton's infidelity, only to bring it up in the media immediately afterward? Yeah, well, Hillary didn't bring up Trump's numerous sexual assault allegations in the debate - or afterward - because she has some f**king class. He hasn't been found guilty of any of these crimes, and so bringing it up would have been sinking to his level. She doesn't have to do that to prove her awesomeness. 

3. A lot of women cry rape because they automatically get the benefit of the doubt.
Um, NOPE TIMES INFINITY! In fact, the exact opposite is true, and if you believe that load of bullshit, please jump off the nearest bridge. 

4. She's probably just targeting Trump because he's rich and can afford to pay her off. 
Nope again. You've mixed up the chicken and egg here. Men like Trump have the audacity to commit such heinous acts against women because they're powerful and they know they can get away with it. Also, the alleged victim is only filing a civil suit against Trump and suing him because the statute of limitations for a criminal trial in New York has expired, and this is all she can do at this point. 

Also worth noting, California just passed a law that removes the statute of limitations on rape cases in the aftermath of the Bill Cosby case. Other states are also changing similar laws to give victims a chance to get justice when they're ready, which may not be for years and years after the trauma. Here's a fabulous quote from Sen. Leyva from the article linked above:
The new law "tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law," California state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, said in a statement. "Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired. There must never be an expiration date on justice!”
Amen, girl. Amen. I'm literally weeping tears of joy and pain right now. Thank you. Just.... thank you... 

5. If this were true, Trump wouldn't be running for president.
Yep, someone actually said those words in a reply to one of my comments on Facebook, and my own face palm almost knocked me unconscious. HONESTLY? You really think that all of our past and present presidential candidates are squeaky clean? Please do some research before you speak such foolishness. And as long as we're talking about the skeletons that may or may not be in Trump's and Hillary's closets, I invite you to compare the two. 

6. If this were true, she would reveal her identity.
Ugh! NO! Isn't it more likely that she's trying to protect herself and her family from the media scrutiny? Or that she's concerned for her and her family's safety? Please re-read the article I cited above. 

7. She's crying rape because she wants attention.
Noooooooo! If she wanted attention, wouldn't you know her name by now? Again, read the damn article. 

8. Bill Clinton and other famous men went to that island, too. 
If I hear this one more time, I will seriously break something. Ok, so if all the other famous dudes in the world go to Jeff Epstein's "Rape Island" and commit heinous acts against women, it's totally fine if our Republican presidential candidate has done it too? So we don't expect more from our future president? I mean, really, if everyone else is raping women like it's f**cking Game of Thrones up in here, why can't Trump get in on that action? OH. MY. GAH! That's just so abhorrent, it makes me want to throw things! At your face!

Oh, and BTW, Bill Clinton isn't running for president right now, so STOP BRINGING HIM UP! Hillary is not simply Bill's wife. She's the f**king Democratic candidate for president in her own right. Stop qualifying her (or disqualifying her) by who she's married to! Jackass. 

All that said, even though #ImWithHer and think Trump is a vile P.O.S., I still feel conflicted. I honestly hope these rape allegations are NOT true because the idea that someone could hurt a child and then BE THIS CLOSE TO BECOMING OUR PRESIDENT makes me sick to my stomach. But on the other hand, if the allegations are true, it will prove that this woman is not crying rape for the money or attention, and it would be a positive step toward putting an end to our rape culture. 

But the fact is, we'll never know whether it's true or not, regardless of the outcome of this trial. Because that's how rape usually works.

I'm not saying I think Trump raped this girl - obviously, I have no clue. But can we at least admit to ourselves that it's plausible rather than instantly assume the woman lying? It's certainly more plausible than the absurd theory that Hillary Clinton is on her death bed somewhere, and the Hillary we're seeing out in public right now is a body double. Or the myth that Barack Obama falsified his birth certificate. I mean, COME ON! (Again, I just knocked myself out with a face palm.)

If you take nothing else away from this article and these terrible events, please let it be this: 
1. Women do not often "cry rape" - at least not nearly as often as the media would like you to think. 
2. It takes all the courage in the world for a victim to come forward and admit she has been raped, especially when the man in question is a powerful one.
3. Consider the evidence presented from both sides of such cases before you make an assumption about who's telling the truth, and understand that regardless of what you hear or what the jury decides, you may never know the real truth. 
4. And most importantly, just because she may not be able to prove it doesn't mean it didn't happen.