Within hours, she was receiving 50 responses per minute. By Monday, she had received 27 million. (Based on when I tweeted mine, it was probably around the 15 million mark).
If 27 million tweets of FIRST assaults -- and this is just people on Twitter who are aware of this -- doesn't hit home the magnitude of those who would be personally and deeply moved by the callousness of the Trump tape, I don't know what will. And this is in addition to those men who reminded us that they have wives and daughters, thus bolstering their explanation of why they would care about predatory behavior that violates the law and is aimed at 51% of the population (not to mention a subset of the population that votes in large numbers).
The subject of Mr. Trump's mental health has been discussed, admittedly in violation of the "Goldwater Rule." Therapists more recently have begun to weigh in on the mental health impacts of this election -- the negativity, the cynicism, the blame, the hostility, the fear. Now in the mix is the aspect of triggering trauma histories made sadly more salient by Mr. Trump's casual admission of being a feckless thug with no respect for women, and perhaps more sadly the willingness of his surrogates Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, and Scott Baio to come to his defense, calling it "locker room talk" that was not assault, and Baio even going to far as to fell Fox News viewers to "grow up and get over it." To hear the former mayor of New York City not only dismiss the language as locker room talk but to joke about it is horrifying even in this election, especially given conservatives' purported support for family values. (For the record, professional athletes in the NFL ("we never had anyone say anything as foul and demeaning as you did on that tape"), NBA, and beyond have done their part to show that advocacy of sexual assault is not a feature in their locker rooms, nor would it hypothetically be accepted). Of course, there is irony in the fact that the candidate who joked about sexual assault, when asked by his party to step down as the Republican nominee, insisted "no means no." A little late on that lesson, Donald.
These have not been comfortable subjects for anyone. No sane person enjoys watching this tape. But having a history of sexual trauma -- which applies to far too many – makes it all the more difficult to hear about sexual predation left, right, and center in the news and social media, whether triggering actual flashbacks or otherwise unpleasant memories, potentially stirring depressive symptoms (which Secretary Clinton’s healthcare plan will at least treat comprehensively). Whether visible outwardly or not, sexual assault's impact on the person -- as well as those around them -- is lasting, leading to higher rates of depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and even suicide. The news provides a constant reminder of something that strikes a nerve with respect to an issue that may still feel acute. For those who have been private about their experiences, there is the question of whether to share one's story -- as in the Twitter collection, or among acquaintances -- to reflect on recent events in a productive dialogue about the proper boundaries of sexual conduct, or to maintain privacy (and the emotions that that brings up). And aptly, the organization End Rape on Campus tweeted on Friday upon the release of the tape, the message, "To those affected by the damaging rhetoric issued by Mr. Trump in the video released today -- we stand with you, we hear you, we support you."
There is the legitimate fear of physical and emotional harm caused by the normalization of "locker room talk" (or worse, acting on it as Trump has been alleged to have) akin to the misguided notion that "boys will be boys" in the context of date rape. When people accept misbehavior -- or worse, assault -- in public discourse and behavior, we facilitate its perpetuation and dampen the vigilance with which we assert our rights as human beings deserving of respect. Please, let us not conflate how men talk in locker rooms with how some bad men may talk in locker rooms.
They (we) then got to see sexual assault allegations made a spectacle of with a photo op leading into the second presidential debate from the same person dismissing his own taped remarks as locker room banter (note: without evidence of actually spending time in locker rooms himself) and as part of a cheap ploy transparently aimed at rattling his opponent (who actually does argue that women's rights are human rights).
Hearing what may have sounded like a familiar experience of unwanted contact (even rape) simply excused -- and in a presidential candidate, no less -- seemingly mocks and disregards the immense emotional impact that it has on the person, whose control was taken from them in a deeply personal way. Experiencing such events at all is more than one should have to endure. Having to defend their status as assaults is abhorrent. And worst of all, it facilitates far too many future opportunities to relive these sorts of experiences when we normalize in the public discourse sexist language and patently illegal behavior amid a marked number of sexual assaults on college campus and beyond.
And it has already happened, with a man at Mr. Trump’s recent rally photographed wearing a shirt reading “She’s a Cunt, Vote for Trump.” Apart from the bad effort at rhyming, the negativity toward women – and the acceptance of transparent misogyny in the public sphere – can have distressingly boundless consequences. The issue is not political correctness for the sake of political correctness. It is moral decency that transcends party identification, and certainly transcends the aesthetics of one’s body, on which Mr. Trump appears to be creepily fixated.
No one is perfect, despite Mr. Trump's assertion that he himself is perfect and devoid of faults. Presidents are human, and humans are allowed to make mistakes. But we are also allowed to hold them to higher standards than we do ordinary Americans because they are meant to serve as positive examples for our citizenry and for other nations of the world. (Though to be sure, this behavior would not be accepted in our neighbors either). That we have not only shifted in our campaign season the discussion to an issue that is deeply painful for many to discuss -- with many dismissing the impact and legitimacy of such language and actions -- but creating a culture of violence against women in which we are all the more vulnerable to its greater perpetuation and acceptance.
We deserve better, as women and more importantly, as human beings. We need to prove it on November 8.