Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump denies recent sexual assault allegations, saying that if he ever touched a woman in the audience they would slap him. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
These days, the leaked video tape as well as the allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump have been on my mind. Many women have come forward saying that Trump groped or kissed them without their consent. He claims that they are all liars; his only defence is that many of them weren't attractive enough for him to have bothered assaulting them.
As if it's somehow a compliment that a man shoves his tongue down your throat or grabs your private parts. As if a man wouldn't bother to do this unless you were worthy of being groped. As if.
Many of the women I see in psychotherapy blame themselves for being "too pretty" or "too sexy," believing that this is what incited men to harass them sexually. I assure them that it has nothing to do with their appearance (or their age, their clothing, or anything other than the fact that they're perceived by certain predatory men as "available"). In fact, it has everything to do with the entitlement these men feel around the bodies of women.
Men like Donald Trump, it seems, believe that our bodies belong to them and that they can comment upon our appearance, speak inappropriately to us, grope us, kiss us or force themselves upon us in any other way, JUST BECAUSE THEY WANT TO and because they're convinced that they have the right to do so. Which, by the way, they absolutely don't.
Too often, women don't call out men for their inappropriate behaviour because we've had so many negative experiences trying and failing to be heard.
It doesn't help that our judges are distressingly lax about calling men to task for sexually assaulting women; that lawyers often won't even take the case of a woman who claims assault because they don't think she could win in court; that bosses often stand by and allow their male employees to sexually harass and even assault the women they work with; or that college administrations allow epidemics of rape to go unchecked on their campuses.
Too often, women don't call out men for their inappropriate behaviour because we've had so many negative experiences trying and failing to be heard, over the years, and because we've seen "how things work" in our society. We see how women aren't taken seriously by almost anyone -- often, even by their own parents -- when they speak up about their experiences of sexual abuse, assault or harassment.
As a result, we grow up not trusting that in matters of sexual abuse, assault or harassment, we'll be taken seriously or accorded our proper rights.
We've all seen too many instances of women being accused of making up stories of assault for their own personal gain -- yeah, as if -- or women having their reputations being dragged through the mud after having accused a man of sexual misconduct. We frequently don't speak out because the whole system is rigged against us.
Karena Virginia (R) identifies herself as victim of sexual misconduct by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
It also doesn't help that when a woman has a history of childhood sexual assault and wasn't protected at the time, she develops what's known as "learned helplessness." After the trauma of her childhood experiences, it becomes etched in her psyche that future instances of assault will be dealt with in the same way as they were, initially. This creates powerful doubts within her that her claims will be taken seriously, today. And then, all she has to do is look at the news to see that her fears are justified.
If approximately one in three Canadian women, according to the most recent statistics, have experienced childhood sexual abuse, it's not surprising why, in combination with our knowledge of how the deck is so heavily stacked against us, we see women being silent about their experiences of adult sexual assault or harassment, or why they finally speak up 10, 20 or 30 years after their experiences, and only then because one or more brave women have spoken up beforehand.
As a woman, I can guess how Arianne Zucker felt when Billy Bush was egging her on to allow Trump to give her an unwanted hug and kiss. Too many times, women are accused of being "bitchy," "unreasonable," "cold," "frigid" or even "lesbian" when we refuse to go along with unwanted sexual advances. Too many women go along with the coercion, feeling that they have no support for the other choice; that is, to just say "no."
I'm hoping that they also bring to light the terrible dilemma that women face today: increased sexual aggression with little or no societal support.
Judges condemn women for responding with ambivalence to unwanted sexual advances or assault, but this just shows how they have little or no understanding of how the psyche works, or the impact of social pressure on personal choices. Both men and women are psychologically prone to going into a state of denial when they've experienced some sort of sexual aggression, whether harassment or rape.
Combine this psychological truth with the high prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and the fact that we're living in a society that gives women practically no support whatsoever around this issue, and it makes perfect sense why women would behave in a confusing, contradictory or ambivalent manner when experiencing adult sexual aggression.
I'm hoping that the recent revelations about Trump don't simply prevent him from becoming the next president of the United States; I'm hoping that they also bring to light the terrible dilemma that women face today: increased sexual aggression with little or no societal support to say "no," speak out or obtain justice when victimized by predatory men.
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