Trump’s victory is an affront to his victims — and women everywhere
Hannah Beresford discusses what Trump’s election means for women and victims of sexual assault everywhere
“Indeed, his treatment of women goes beyond basic disrespect. In many instances he fails to treat women as human beings at all.”
Trump’s election is a sharp and disappointing reminder of the rampant misogyny that exists in our society. The sexism at the heart of his victory goes beyond people choosing to vote for an unqualified man over a qualified woman. Millions of people cast their vote for a man who has shown time and again through his words and action that he does not respect women.
Indeed, his treatment of women goes beyond basic disrespect. In many instances he fails to treat women as human beings at all. There are many facets to Trump’s misogyny: He has derided women based on their appearance, belittled women of ambition and attacked women about their relationships. Even the women who have earned his apparent respect have done so on the basis of their perceived attractiveness rather than their abilities. Women are constantly broken down to their constituent body parts, the bits that Trump can grab.
I have known from an early age that there are powerful men who choose to use that power to hurt women. This knowledge became an inescapable part of my understanding of the world when a supposedly respectable man decided that my 8 year old body was his for the taking.
I have spent much of my life trying to understand why I live in a society where that happened to me. I came of age in an Ireland that had at last begun to speak about the mass sexual abuse of children in parishes and industrial schools across Ireland. The burgeoning conversation around sexual violence, at a time when I was beginning to understand the nature of what had to me, caused me to believe that perhaps all we needed to do to prevent it was to talk about it more. Surely if people were just told that sexual violence was rampant, they would do all in their power to stamp it out?
I woke up on Wednesday morning to a world that belied this belief. Millions of Americans voted for a man who has gleefully boasted about the sexual assault of women. Trump is a sexual predator. Dozens of women have made allegations of sexual assault against him. Unfortunately, the world in which we live does not value the testimony of these women. They are liars, of course; bitter women intent on bringing down a great man.
I watched the treatment of the women who came forward to speak about their experiences of sexual violence at the hands of Donald Trump with resigned anger, the incredible speed with which they were labelled liars illustrating perfectly how much the odds are stacked against women in situations like these. From the woman raped by Brock Turner to Kesha, the default societal response to any woman who speaks about her experience of sexual violence is distrust and suspicion.
Accepting that someone is willing to assault a woman is difficult. None of us enjoy realising the the world is slightly worse place than you previously believed. None of us enjoy accepting that the person you thought was a decent human being is capable of horrible things. It makes for an easier life to decide that the women speaking about their experiences are hysterical, scheming liars.
However, even if this is how you see the world — or if you simply decide that you cannot make a judgment without the production of further evidence and choose to remain agnostic — it is impossible to deny the words we have heard from Trump’s own mouth. “You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.” This is unambiguously sexual assault. Trump is well aware of his ability to carry it out without consequence, protected as he is by his fame and money.
Waking up as a woman and survivor of sexual assault to a world where Trump would be president was one that was entirely surreal. It was a vicious reminder that for many people, violence against women is simply not important. It does not rank sufficient highly on their list of priorities to cause them not to vote for a man who brags about grabbing women by their genitalia without their consent.
Trump’s election is a rebuke to the work of so many men and women against sexual violence. It is an insult to the women and the men who are living with the scars that sexual assault leaves. Much of surviving sexual assault is a struggle to regain a sense of control over your life and body when it has been taken from you. It is deeply wrong that the world’s most powerful man revels in inflicting that powerlessness.
Sexual assault will happen as long as we choose to ignore. It is not enough to attack women who speak about sexual violence as liars. It is not good enough to dismiss crude and violent comments as locker room talk. As a woman who has been grabbed by the pussy by a man I could not stop, I cannot understand how any person could listen to that recording and decide that the man who uttered those words was worthy of the highest office in their country.
A vote for Trump was at best a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that the sexual assault of women does not matter. At worst it was an outright endorsement of Trump’s treatment of women as objects for is gratification. Women are not collections of grab-able parts. It is outrageous that the leader of the free world wilfully refuses to see them as anything else.
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