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: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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