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Trump's mockery emboldens rape culture

As President Donald Trump touched down Tuesday at Memphis International Airport to lead a rally in nearby So...

Posted: Oct 3, 2018 4:24 PM
Updated: Oct 3, 2018 4:24 PM

As President Donald Trump touched down Tuesday at Memphis International Airport to lead a rally in nearby Southaven, Mississippi, I was also crossing into Mississippi to attend a political event of a different kind. I was driving two hours to Cleveland, Mississippi, to speak on a panel with former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, currently running for US Senate, on progressive, intergenerational leadership.

While we were in deep conversation about the continued movement for racial justice in the South, Trump was roughly 120 miles north of us, mocking Professor Christine Blasey Ford -- and every person in America who has been a victim of sexual assault.

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It was dark as I drove home to Memphis and heard video of Trump's shocking retelling of Ford's testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, mimicking her in a belittling tone and accusing her of leaving Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh's life in "tatters" and his family's life "shattered." The darkness was fitting as I watched the elected leader of our nation take an even darker turn.

Trump's taunts of Professor Ford, and the cheers they elicited in the arena where the rally was held, set a precedent that further emboldens rape culture in our country. It was clear that Trump's only concern is for the life of the man accused by more than one woman of sexual assault or misconduct and not for the women who have lived with the trauma of being assaulted. Judge Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him. As I drove, I could only think of the young women and the children who would hear the President's words and how their own voices would be muted by his lack of empathy and the bravado with which he sought to disempower his own accusers and those of Kavanaugh.

That our President said and did these things is a national disgrace, but that he did so in Mississippi and just outside Memphis is especially appalling. According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, 14% of high school girls in Mississippi reported being forced to have sex against their will, higher than reported data nationally. Sunflower County, near where I was when Donald Trump was speaking, is part of the Mississippi Delta, the poorest part of the state. If a young girl in Sunflower County is sexually assaulted, her options for mental health care and reproductive health care are severely limited.

If that same girl's attacker impregnates her and she wants to terminate that pregnancy, she would have to find the resources to travel to the one abortion provider in the entire state in Jackson, the state capital. Southaven, where Trump spoke Tuesday night, is a more affluent part of the state, nearly 200 miles away, but there are still limited services for reproductive health care and sexual trauma recovery there, as well. By treating sexual assault survivors like fodder for a late-night TV monologue, Trump is blowing out a light of hope for many in a state where recovery options are far too few.

As I crossed the state line back into Memphis, I was still reeling, thinking of the many friends I have in Memphis who have bravely shared their stories of sexual assault in light of #MeToo. I reached out to one of them to see how Trump's words impacted her. "Hearing someone, who supposedly represents this country, mock the survivor of sexual assault makes my heart hurt," Angela Russell, a local business owner, told me. "It hurts for that woman, for every woman who has survived sexual assault, myself included. This is why women stay quiet."

She praised Professor Ford as "incredibly courageous for putting herself in the public eye in order to shed light on Kavanaugh's brutality and misogyny." But Ford is not the only one to brave public scrutiny. Earlier this year, Russell -- like Ford, who had to leave her home -- received threats when she publicly accused an abuser. Her business, in a city that during the past decade has led the nation's largest cities in female-owned business growth, was boycotted. In this context, Trump's words went further than impugning Ford's character. He attacked his own accusers of assault and misconduct. He attacked Russell. He attacked me and every other person in this country who has had to survive the trauma of being assaulted sexually.

In short, Donald Trump abused his power Tuesday night in my hometown. He engaged in the most powerful type of bullying and victim blaming and shaming we have seen as a country. To add further weight to the impact of his actions, he did this in the heart of the South, where women's ownership of their bodies slips swiftly through their fingers. Women in Tennessee wait with bated breath for the White House's decision on a waiver from the state legislature that would defund Planned Parenthood in our state. Rural hospitals are closing at rapid rates, leaving women without health care options. Some 12,000 rape kits sat untested for years, and the victims are found to have no standing. And the President stands in the midst of it all and laughs.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
96° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 108°
Columbus
Clear
94° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 108°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
93° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 101°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
93° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 105°
Very hot and very humid conditions linger in our area for our Saturday. However, the heat and humidity start to dwindle a bit as we go into our Sunday and beyond. As a matter of fact below normal high temperatures for this time of year.
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