Statistics from 2016 National Sexual Violence Resource Center Report. Graphics by Brady Phelps

Warning – graphic content

The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Language is important when discussing sexual violence and misconduct – for legal reasons and lucidity.  

UTSA’s policy on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct (found in Section 9.24 of the Handbook of Operating Procedures) defines consent as follows:

“a voluntary, mutually understandable agreement that clearly indicates a willingness to engage in each instance of sexual activity.  Consent to one act does not imply consent to another.  Past consent does not imply future consent.  Consent to engage in sexual activity with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity with another.  Consent can be withdrawn at any time.  Any expression of an unwillingness to engage in any instance of sexual activity establishes a presumptive lack of consent.”  

Following an assault, survivors can experience a wide range of emotions. Shock. Confusion. Anxiety. Numbness. Denial.

Some survivors may downplay the intensity of the experience because it’s difficult to grapple with the trauma they’ve endured. There is no uniform or “correct” way to react to sexual assault. But acknowledging what has happened, with unambiguous terms, can be empowering; a definition can brighten the murkiness of complex feelings, replacing doubt with direction. Clarity. Healing. Grit. Peace.

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Words absolutely matter.

This is why it’s so important–as a society, as an electorate, as decent human beings–to condemn Donald Trump’s comments from the leaked video clip obtained by the Washington Post and to call them what they are.

11 years before he was a presidential candidate, the 59-year-old GOP nominee was on a tour bus with Billy Bush, a host on the pop- culture news show Access Hollywood. He was there to record a promotional segment for his cameo in an upcoming soap opera.

The leaked audio contains an array of lewd and objectifying descriptions of women, but perhaps the most horrifying exchange between the two men comes when a beautiful actress approaches the bus:

TRUMP: “Yeah, that’s her in the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

BUSH: “Whatever you want.”

TRUMP: “Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

As the recent media frenzy ensued, Trump released a statement describing this incident as “locker room banter.”

This is not locker room banter. This is a presidential candidate boasting about how he has exploited his money, power and celebrity to sexually assault women.  

When Trump brags that he doesn’t  “even wait” before kissing women or grabbing them by their genitals, he is bragging about not receiving consent, the qualifier of committing sexual assault.

This is not “boys being boys.” These are two grown men–one of them seeking the most important and influential office in the world – showboating their complete lack of respect for women.  

A damning 2016 report from the U.S. Justice Department found that one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. UTSA has taken increased measures to combat this epidemic and educate students on the importance of consent.  Incoming UTSA freshmen are required to complete an online Sexual Assault Prevention training after Orientation and Orientation Leaders are trained in Bystander Intervention (an approach to preventing sexual violence by encouraging bystanders to speak up when they see predatory behavior).

Trump’s comments sound like the example of how NOT to behave in these prevention programs – his behavior would be found unacceptable and reprehensible on a college campus.

This is not an endorsement of any particular 2016 presidential candidate but a condemnation of Trump’s dangerous and misogynistic comments. He should be held to the same standards that we must meet as college students, at the very least.

 

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