opinion

#NextFakeTrumpVictim is why women don't come forward after sexual assault.

The story of two women who told The New York Times they were touched inappropriately by Donald Trump did not surprise me.

We heard him admit to behaviour like this in a leaked recording from 2005 where he bragged “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I don’t even wait.” He told television presenter Billy Bush that “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

It was only a matter of time before words became actions.

I wasn’t surprised by Jessica Leeds’ story of being allegedly assaulted by Trump on a plane, or Rachel Crooks’ accusations of being kissed on the mouth by Trump at her workplace when she was 22.

I also wasn’t surprised at the cynicism, no, abuse and disbelief, that followed The New York Times article about Leeds and Crooks. The two women who spoke out about Trump now have their own hashtag, #nextfaketrumpvictim. Get it? They’re liars and so to is any other woman who comes forward about Trump.

Even though The New York Times is one of the most reputable publications in the World.

Even though Trump was caught on tape admitting to "grabbing girls by the pussy" and "moving onto that bitch" who also happened to be married.

Even though he rates women on a scale of one to 10, and has affirmed his own daughter as "a piece of ass".

Let's get some things straight:

If you think this reaction is about politics, you're wrong

In 2004, Andrea Constand filed charges against US actor and comedienne Bill Cosby. She said she went to his apartment, where he offered her pills that he said were "herbal medicine". She began to feel weak and disoriented. He directed her to the sofa where he "touched her breasts, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated her."

Barbara Bowman also came forward. She said that when she was 19, an aspiring actress, Cosby was her "mentor" and that he "forced himself multiple times upon me". That she woke up once, slumped over a toilet bowl, wearing only a man's white tee-shirt and her underwear.

In total 13 women came forward to testify against Cosby. At the time Cosby admitted to drugging women he wanted to have sex with, telling police that he gave Constand wine and Benadryl before having sex with her.

Nothing happened. He was the family man. The caring, good-natured, icon.

13 rape victims weren't strong enough to undo that reputation.

His admission to drugging women to have sex with them wasn't enough either.

Cosby didn't see a courtroom until earlier this year, 12 years after Constand pressed charges.

If you think victim blaming only happens when the perpetrator is a celebrity, you're wrong

When Stanford University student Brock Turner was taken to court this year for raping a 22-year-old woman passed out next to a dumpster, the discussion turned to alcohol. Not to rape.

“And you did a lot of partying in college, right?” the woman, who woke up on a hospital gurney with blood on her elbows and missing underwear, was asked by lawyers. "When you drank the quantity of vodka in the red cup. You drank it all down at once, right? Like, chugged it. And that was a decision you made, right?" She found pine needles in her hair. She was discovered by witnesses unconscious behind a dumpster. He'd penetrated her with a foreign object. But the questions were about her drinking alcohol.

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Brock Turner was a successful swimmer. He was a well-liked student.

She was drunk and also a "party animal".

He received a jail sentence of only three-months.

This is the reason victims of sexual assault so rarely come forward

It's not about politics or celebrities or well-dressed, private school swimmers. It's about us. The way society looks at the victim.

"Why did it happen to her? What did she do to make it happen. She must have an agenda. Maybe she wants money. Maybe she just made a decision she now regrets."

Soon enough, she starts asking herself the same questions.

Lets think about all the reasons a women might keep quiet. Might refuse to report rape. All the reasons why Leeds didn't come forward and tell police that Donald Trump put his hands up her skirt and rubbed his hands all over her body while she was trapped on a plane seat next to him.

Lack of support

"Decades ago, police were reluctant to give women support in domestic violence and rape and sex assault cases. This has made an impact. Victim blaming perpetuated in media,"  Liam Dooley,the Executive Manager of Community Development of White Ribbon told Mamamia. "We’ve created a culture where women are often blamed and, as a result of that, blame themselves when these things happen. When people come forward, they don't receive the support they need and they're often not believed."

Expenses

Think: Lawyer expenses. Time off work. An understanding boss. All the time re-living, re-telling a trauma that is a darkness inside you. Facing questions. Internalising your own hurt. All the time, paying with money and time and more trauma, for the sake of justice.

"Going through these processes also takes an extreme amount of money, negotiation at the workplace, and various feelings of shame and uncertainly," Dooley said.

Police reaction

"We still live in a society that asks 'why was she there, what was she wearing etc'," CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, Moo Baulch told Mamamia. "There is a fear that you won't be believed; that Police will not be supportive; that the court process will not be sensitive; or that you will somehow be blamed for the circumstances."

Not to mention the actual obtaining of the evidence itself. "Obtaining physical evidence is physically intrusive and re-traumatising for women," Dooley said. "This means many victims are reluctant to come forward instantly. It might be months or years down the track before they report the abuse, and by this time the physical evidence is negligible."

The trauma of testifying

"The criminal justice system is inherently very difficult for people who have experienced rape and sexual assault who are seeking justice," Dooley said. "It takes courage and resilience to be exposed in a court of law. The tactics of defence lawyers against victims can be extremely re-traumatising."

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It is unavoidably difficult to have to remember and recount details of a sexual assault during the court process. - Baulch

If the victim was known to the perpetrator

"These cases are difficult because they lack of conclusive evidence," Dooley said. "If they've been known to each other, and there's been quite a lot of contact, being able to find evidence is difficult. It becomes one person's story against another.

In these cases, the pressure of victim shaming is even stronger. "But you've had sex with him before, what's different this time?" The fact a woman has said 'yes' in the past, does not change her right to say 'no'.

"Our attitudes to sexual violence are changing but we still don't have a nuanced mainstream narrative about consent," Baulch said. "This is a problem because often victim-survivors will question whether they are the one at fault."

If it's sexual assault but not rape

"Sexual assault is almost seen as part of the 'everyday sexism', for example as someone getting groped by a man at a bar," Dooley said. "There's a culture we’ve created around acceptance of violence and sexual violence. Women think 'this is something everyone experiences so I'm not going to say anything about it'. We act like it's no big deal. And it is a big deal. It should never be excused."

But, too often, these cases are not taken seriously by police. I wonder what would have happened had 22-year-old Crooks gone to the police, telling them that Trump had kissed her on the lips without her consent. That he had sexually assaulted her. I wonder how they would have reacted.

"Police are generally under-resourced and the resources of police to act on these examples of sexual assault are minimal," Dooley says. "This is a reason why people might be reluctant to come forward in the first place."

If he's high profile

"This has a huge impact. Firstly, because there is increased media attention, but also because these people have such a strong, positive reputation, the chances of being believed are even less than they are in normal situations," Dooley said. "People start to compartmentalise. They think 'this person is hero and they might have done this thing that is a bit wrong, but they're good most of the time, so it's okay'. The public will look at everything else this person has done that is positive, and start to excuse or ignore."

Communities often protect a perpetrator. It can make it very difficult to speak out if you fear that there will be a community backlash or the media will forensically analyse your life and pursue you. - Baulch

On thing is clear: The accusations against Donald Trump are turning the silence of sexual abuse victims into noise.

And this noise is growing. It's full of women's voices, young and old, and it's a turning into a roar.

We've had enough of other people talking about the amount of alcohol we drink. Or the status of the rapist. Or whether or not the man who stuck his hands up your skirt is a billionaire or a politician or just "having a bit of fun". Or whether you have history with the man who wouldn't listen when you said 'no'.

It doesn't matter if it's rape, or someone putting their fingers in your underwear as you lean up against a bar.

It is still sexual assault. And it is never the fault of the victim.

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