Image by Maddy Pease
Humans are resilient creatures. I once learned in a Life Science class at UCLA that emotions are meant to be fleeting. Even when something is good, humans cannot stay happy forever or else they would become stagnant, never thinking about how to achieve their next goal. When things are bad, humans possess a tremendous capacity to adapt so that the bad does not become all-consuming.
Admittedly, I have at times found myself feeling jaded to the news. What once had the propensity to send waves of nausea throughout my body can now sometimes leave me feeling nothing more than numb. From time to time, I adapt so that existing in a time of seemingly endless disturbing news alerts can be somewhat bearable.
Recently, however, there have been several events that have shaken me out of my stupor and filled me with that familiar feeling of anger that lets me know I cannot just sit silent — that reminds me just how utterly wrong this political reality is.
Earlier this month, Donald Trump declared April 2017 National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. He pledged that his administration would “do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence.” He continued on to explain that “this includes supporting victims, preventing future abuse, and prosecuting offenders to the full extent of the law.”
Immediately, my mind jumped to that infamous video. You know, the one where Trump proudly brags to coworkers that since he is famous, he can do anything sexual he pleases with women. In fact, he does not even have to ask. By now, I think we all know this video too well.
Since the surfacing of this video, multiple sexual assault allegations have been made against Trump. Despite the video, despite the allegations, Trump still went on to become the 45th president of the United States of America.
Still, I wanted to believe that there was hope for him to change. I wanted to believe that his naming this month National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month was actually him standing in solidarity with women and sexual assault survivors. Maybe he had finally gained enough self awareness to see the despicableness of his behavior.
Then, last week, Trump weighed in on the recent sexual assault allegations made against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
It was revealed that O’Reilly, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox had paid a total of $13 million in settlements to five women who had accused him of sexual assault or verbal abuse. Trump defended O’Reilly, assuring the public in an interview with The New York Times that he is confident this is not something O’Reilly would have done: “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person. I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
I think we should be listening to the women. I think it is safe to say that someone who has recently been caught on tape condoning sexual assault is not the best judge for O’Reilly’s innocence.
I know you didn’t ask, Mr. Trump, but that is what I think.
It was sad for me to realize that Trump’s National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month was nothing more than a disingenuous attempt at solidarity. Even if he was trying to make genuine strides towards being helpful to victims of sexual assault, he should not have been so quick to discredit the voices of numerous alleged victims.
For me, this was one of those moments I spoke of earlier — when I am jolted back into reality and compelled to resist. Donald Trump is not my ally, and as much as I would like for him to be, we must not let ourselves be fooled. For victims of sexual assault, the real allies are organizations such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline, National Organization for Victim Assistance, Darkness to Light, GirlThrive, NotAlone.gov, Malesurvivor.org, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), and family and friends.
While ideally, we would be able to count on our president as an ally, we must not be afraid to lean on each other in this time.
Like I said, emotions can be fleeting — in fact, it is something that helps humans get by. But let us not allow ourselves to become complacent. Navigating this political climate and keeping our loved ones safe is simply too important.