In the days since The Washington Post released recordings featuring Donald Trump making lewd comments about women to Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus, at least four women have accused Trump of sexual assault.
The New York Times reported the stories of two women: Jessica Leeds says Trump stuck his hand up her skirt mid-flight in the 1980s, and Rachel Crooks accuses him of forcibly kissing her in an elevator decades later. The Palm Beach Post published the story of Mindy McGillivray, who says Trump groped her at an event at the Mar-a-Lago 13 years ago. And last night, People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff broke her silence about Trump allegedly assaulting her during an interview in 2005.
The logical question that follows is: Why are we hearing about these alleged incidents now, just weeks before the election? But here's the thing. If you think this is the first time women have accused Trump of sexual assault, you're not paying attention.
- In July, Jill Harth, a makeup artist for beauty pageants, went public about the 1997 lawsuit where she accused Trump of attempted rape. Harth says he groped her under the table at business dinners and assaulted her in his daughter's bedroom.
- In June, a woman accused Trump of raping her two decades ago when she was 13 years old. Although the merits of this case have been widely debated, a court date is set for December.
- In May, Temple Taggart, a former Miss Utah, told The New York Times that Trump forcibly kissed her and other pageant contests.
- During their 1992 divorce, Ivana Trump said Donald raped her in 1989. She later said it wasn't rape in "the criminal sense", but she maintains she "felt violated" and never altered her description of the violent sexual assault.
And this doesn't even account for the dozens of outrageous and offensive comments Trump has made—and continues to make—about women:
We've heard him mock Carly Fiorina for her appearance ("Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?"), flat-chested women ("A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10"), and women in the military ("26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military—only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?"). And that's only a handful of remarks.
Getting back to the allegations of sexual assault: We've heard numerous reports at this point (suggesting his sexism isn't "just words," as he tried to say at the most recent debate). So why does it take the in-your-face example of the Access Hollywood video for us to believe the claims that Trump is a serial sexual abuser?
It's not just Trump. Time and again we downplay rape accusations against famous men, including Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton. In all of these cases, most of the victims were silent for years. They know they'll face an ugly backlash—they'll be called sluts and get told they're asking for it. It takes many women coming together and sharing their stories for us to pay attention— and that's completely messed up.
Yes, Trump is running for the highest office in the country, so his misconduct is front and center. But sexual assault is wrong no matter who the offender is or what position they're in. We're happy these women feel empowered (perhaps it's more accurate to say angered or flabbergasted?) enough to speak up, but we also need to take a long, hard look at the pervasive rape culture that makes these surivors think they need to stay silent for so long.