As a businesswoman during the 1970s and 1980s she had learned one thing: “We were taught it was our fault.”
At 22, Rachel Crooks was just beginning her career when she says she met Trump in 2005 in the building they worked in. She shook his hand to introduce herself, and alleges he kissed her directly on the mouth. Later, sobbing, she told her boyfriend that the most distressing part was that she felt she couldn't do anything to him because of his position.
But that was then.
Though Trump, now the Republican presidential nominee, is more powerful than ever, these women, emboldened by the high stakes, are finding the courage finally to speak out about their alleged assaults. Their stand is brave, and a welcome sign of the changing times.
In recent years, amid a series of high-profile sexual assault scandals and the conversations that followed, attitudes toward such crimes have shifted. There is a growing awareness that victims are not to blame for their assaults and a sense that men can no longer hide behind cloaks of power.
Consider Kelly Oxford. Last Friday when a video recording surfaced of Trump bragging he could grab women by the genitals and get away with it because he's a star, she sought to show the world the impact that attitude can have on its victims. “Women: tweet me your first assaults,” she wrote on Twitter. “Old man on city bus grabs my `p---y' and smiles at me. I'm 12.” By Saturday morning she was getting as many as 50 responses per minute under the hashtag #NotOkay.
Similar conversations emerged in the wake of the recent Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby sexual assault scandals. The accusers who came forward in those cases gave strength to others to tell their stories and on and on, chipping away at the stigma that kept Leeds and Crooks and so many others quiet for so long. (Trump denies all allegations of sexual assault and no charges have been laid.)
It is ironic that in some sense Trump is responsible for this healthy outpouring. Leeds, Crooks and others all say they came forward only because he denied during the most recent presidential debate that he has ever committed the sort of sexual crimes he was recorded bragging about. As Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women of New York told The New York Times: “In a campaign short on any concrete policies, Donald Trump has accidentally shed light on a very serious issue.”
Trump's notion that sexual gratification is the entitlement of the powerful, while by no means rare, is among the most despicable claims of what has surely been the most despicable presidential campaign in American history. Let's hope the destruction once and for all of that dangerous fallacy is among his few lasting legacies.
THE CANADIAN PRESS