Trump’s Comments On Sexual Assault in the Military Are Not Only Wrong – They’re Dangerous

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By Jillian Stacia

During Wednesday’s Commander-in-Chief Forum, Donald Trump did a great job of reminding America why he is the most anti-women candidate in the history of United States politics. In addition to his previous comments about women in the workplace, women’s appearances, and threatening to punish women who get abortions, Trump has now defended his claim that military sexual assault is the result of women being allowed to serve. 

In 2013, back when Donald Trump was still something of a celebrity jokester and less of a threat to national security, he tweeted this:

When asked if he still believes in the sentiment of his tweet, Trump responded: “I think it’s absolutely correct. Not to take them out, but something has to happen. The problem is nobody is getting prosecuted.”

Yes, of course it’s a problem that nobody is getting prosecuted for these crimes. But that’s largely due to the fact that our country, and the military by extension, has become a breeding ground for rape culture. And statements like the one Trump made continue to normalize and condone sexual violence.

This tweet is a flagrant example of blaming the victim. When you state that sexual assault goes on in the military because of the mere presence of women, you imply that women are causing the problem to occur.

It’s another case of “she was asking for it.” Of course she was raped, did you see how short her skirt was? Of course she was taken advantage of, did you see how drunk she was? Of course she was sexually assaulted, did you see how she joined the military? What was she thinking? Doesn’t she know that those men are sexually frustrated? They’re bound to take it out on somebody. She had it coming.

Unfortunately, this kind of rhetoric has become more and more mainstream. The scariest part about Trump (and trust me, it’s tough to pick just one), is not his racist, misogynist, arrogant statements – it’s the growing crowd of supporters behind him. And when it comes to rape and sexual assault, this country is filled with dangerous beliefs that only perpetuate crime and make victims less likely to speak up and come forward. With 1 out of 6 women experiencing attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, it is vital that we create an environment that makes women more likely to report the crime and receive help.

It should go without saying that the victim is never asking for it. Ever. Never ever, does anyone, EVER, want to be raped. And the brave women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country’s freedom shouldn’t be blamed for the despicable crimes of their colleagues. She shouldn’t be denied entry into the military because she’d create too much temptation for men. When a woman agrees to serve, she is making quite possibly the bravest decision one can make in their lifetime. Implying that she “had it coming” because she agreed to serve is despicable and downright anti-patriotic.

Men and women can coexist together, both inside and outside of the military, without sexual assault. You cannot justify or explain away rape due to the mere presence of women. If your answer to sexual assault in the military is to, quite literally, remove all of the vaginas, you clearly don’t understand the significance or depth of the issue at hand.

It’s also important to point out that not all of these victims are women. In fact, more than half are men. Did you know that, Trump? But due to judgments and stigma of their own, men are often more unwilling than women to report the incident. Men see the way women are treated for speaking out. Combine that with a homophobic culture and it’s a miracle any men have been brave enough to come forward at all. The problem of sexual assault in the military runs much deeper than Trump seems to understand.

It’s this kind of boys will be boys’ mentality that serves as the cornerstone of rape culture. There’s still this unspoken thought process where we identify with the rapist for being a “normal man with hormones” and blame the victim for drinking or simply existing.

We don’t have to look much farther than Brock Turner to see how society favors the rapist and is therefore, anti-victim. Instead of being disgusted by his horrendous crime, we’re bombarded with information about his athletic talents, education, and good upbringing – as if that has any bearing whatsoever. When the media refuses to show Brock’s mugshot or refer to him as a convicted rapist instead of a “Stanford swimmer,” they are downplaying the significance of his crime. As a result, we are conditioned to sympathize with the rapist rather than with the victim. Which naturally makes future victims less likely to come forward. And so it goes.

Trump’s tweet made it clear that it’s easier for him to sympathize with the sexually tense men in the military than it is with women who want to serve their country without fear of assault. Trump is looking at the men and saying, yes, I can see how that might lead to a problem, instead of looking at the women and saying, in no way is this acceptable and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen.

And while Trump is essentially blaming women for their own assault, he’s not exactly giving men a lot of credit here either. Trump seems to think that, under the right circumstances, rape is a logical reaction to male hormones. As if rape is some uncontrollable impulse and not a horrendous crime.

I’m not a politician (coincidentally, neither is Trump), but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you don’t stop the problem of sexual assault by merely separating the sexes. That’s not solving the problem, that’s avoiding it. In fiscal year 2014, 18,900 military members experienced sexual assault. This is a serious problem that needs our attention. We don’t have time to waste with surface solutions that don’t address the underlying issues. The brave people in our military deserve better.

To answer Trump’s initial question about what those “geniuses” expected when they put men and women together? I think they expected men and women to coexist without sexually violating one another. They expected grown ass adults to understand the rules of consent. They expected a foundation of basic ethics and respect. And they expected that if the problem of sexual assault did become an issue, the military and government would do everything they could to make both men and women feel safe, protected, and here’s the kicker – actually welcomed.

And, btw, Trump is also mistaken on the historical significance of women in the military. While the role of women in the armed forces has certainly grown over recent years, they’ve actually been working with their male soldier counterparts since the Revolutionary War. But maybe Trump missed that part of History class.

When it comes to my Commander-in-Chief, I want a leader who understands this concept. I want someone who values women and their contributions, who advocates for safety in the workplace, who comprehends the complexity of the issue, who understands that banning vaginas is not the answer to rape epidemic. We need a leader who understands rape culture and is committed to ending it.

It should come as a surprise to no one, but it bears repeating: Donald Trump is not that leader.


Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via pexels}

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