The president’s apparent concern this week for the victims of sexual assault and abuse is curious considering his actions.
By Danielle Campoamor
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the nation in a last-ditch effort to persuade Americans that our southern border is under siege. Of particular focus in his appeal was the high risk of sexual assault migrant women face during their journey to the U.S.
“One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico,” the president claimed. “Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.” The president doubled down on this talking point during a visit to Texas on Thursday, claiming criminals attempting to enter the United States illegally kidnap and restrain women along the way. “They drive, they just go where there’s no security, fencing or walls of any kind, they just make a left into U.S. and they come in and they have women tied up,” the president said. “They have tape over their mouths, electrical tape. Powerful stuff. Not good.”
The president’s apparent concern for the plight of women seeking asylum in the United States is curious considering his actions, past and present. It’s difficult to believe that the man who called Mexicans rapists and who last year enacted a family separation policy that forcibly removed over 2,000 children from their parents truly seeks to aid the estimated six in 10 migrant women who are sexually assaulted during their journey to the United States. Indeed, while the journey is often harrowing, many women seeking asylum are fleeing sexual violence in their countries of origin. Despite this, in September the U.S. government made it much harder for such women to seek protection, with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruling that domestic abuse or gang violence were not grounds for asylum.
Meanwhile, Trump’s stubbornness regarding the government shutdown threatens numerous groups that support sexual assault victims in the U.S. Amid the budget impasse, lawmakers failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which funds organizations across the country, from hotlines to counseling services to shelters.
This is not, however, the first time Trump has used the epidemic of sexual assault, or those who have been forced to endure it, for his own political gain.
From facilitating a 90-minute press conference withJuanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Kathy Shelton, and Paula Jones — women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault or rape — to mocking Christine Blasey Ford during a campaign rally, it’s not just women this thrice-married president finds dispensable... it’s their pain. So if pretending to care about a woman being groped while she sleeps helps the president attack Democrats, then Trump is more than happy to act concerned over former Senator Al Franken forcibly kissing Leeann Tweeden. And if overlooking accusations of pedophilia can keep a Senate seat red, then Trump is willing to disregard Leigh Corfman, Wendy Miller, Debbie Wesson Gibson, Gloria Thacker Deason, Beverly Young Nelson, Tina Johnson, Gena Richardson and Becky Gray and endorse Roy Moore.
None of this is very surprising, given that beingaccused of sexual misconduct by numerous women, and bragging about sexual assault on tape, did little to foil Trump's political aspirations. The lesson here is that sexual violence against women is nothing more than a political bargaining chip.
If Trump truly cared about the sexual violence immigrant women face he would make it easier for those women to seek safety in the United States. A reported 64 percent of women attempting to resettle in the United States cited the possibility of being raped as a reason why they were leaving their home country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). And he would certainly work harder to preventadults from bringing their minor spouses or fiancées into the country.
If sexual violence was really keeping the president up at night, Trump would acknowledge that many undocumented immigrants are afraid to report domestic or sexual violence because they fear deportation. Instead, he has done the opposite, stoking fear by promising to create a “deportation force” that would remove 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States.
Although studies show undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than American citizens, Trump loves to cite crimes allegedly committed by undocumented men — often against white women. Maybe instead he should namedrop Juan David Ortiz in his speeches — a U.S. Border Patrol agent arrested and accused of kidnapping and killing four migrant women — or Jose Nunez,a sheriff's deputy arrestedfor allegedly sexually assaulting a 4-year-old immigrant child and then blackmailing the child’s mother with deportation.
And if Trump was really worried about the ongoing epidemic of sexual assault in his own country, he would not have allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire. He would be overwhelming concerned that the shutdown is negatively impacting domestic violence shelters across the country, which are being forced to scale back the number of services they provide, and he would acknowledge thateight out of 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, not an immigrant seeking a better life in the United States of America.
A man who once attempted to discredit a woman who accused him of sexual assault by insulting her appearancedoesn’t really care about gender-based violence. He cares about the ways in which he can use the reality of that violence to fulfill a campaign promise that the majority of Americans don’t care about anyway.
But we cannot let him. Sexual assault survivors are not a soapbox for power men to stand on. We are not a curtain for self-serving men to hide their true ambitions behind. We matter whether or not we voted for you or have the same political affiliation as you. We matter regardless of our immigration status or country of origin.
We matter, whether the president gets his damn wall or not.
Danielle Campoamor is a senior editor at Romper and author of Bustle's Abortion AMA column.
This article was first published on NBC News' Think. Opinions expressed in View articles are solely those of the author.