With the recently leaked video of Donald Trump’s remarks on forcibly groping women and the subsequent flood of women coming forward to confirm his sexual behavior, I would like to take the time to share my own experience dealing with sexual assault when it comes to politicians.
One of the last campaigns I ran took me down the dark road of sexual assault. The campaign itself was not very noteworthy. My candidate lost to a very well-funded candidate in a locality that did not benefit our political affiliation. During the course of that campaign I heard rumors that in the not-to-distant past, our opponent had been accused by one of his associates of rape. According to the rumor, the issue was reviewed by the organization that both parties were part of, and there was not enough evidence for the organization to take any action.
As far as I was concerned there was nothing really to do about the rumor. For one, it was just a rumor with no evidence backing it up, and there was no real way to go to the organization and force them to reveal any records they had about the incident, especially in the few weeks left before the election. Even the alleged victim was unknown to us. Also, I did not want to sling mud around in a campaign that could come back and hurt my candidate. It really was not a difficult decision to make. Campaigns are always flooded with rumors about their opponents.
Around two years after that campaign I would receive an email from someone who remembered me as one of the campaign managers from that race. The email shocked me. It described this person’s friend as being raped the previous week by the candidate I had worked against. The writer and the victim had tried going to the press about it, but no media organization would bite. Both were angry and frustrated, and did not know why no one would publish the story. They wanted my help.
For me this was about helping a victim of a sex crime, and not something to take advantage of politically. I would leave the political ramifications to others once the story came to light. I was very wary if there was any whiff that I was involved in this story, people would likely believe this was a political hack job and that would make the situation more confusing and worse. In fact, I kept very quiet among my political connections about my involvement. And, as far as I know, that particular community still does not know to this day I had anything to do with that sad part of their history. The candidate I had worked for also never knew I was somehow involved with the events that unfolded.
I explained that the reason the press was not going forward with the story is because accusing someone falsely of rape is a dangerous thing and is grounds for the accused to come back and sue for defamation. The press is very mindful of that. They, too, have to discern rumor from fact. Not only that, but going to the press, or even people involved in politics like me, should not be their primary goal. This was a sex crime and should be reported to the police.
Statistics show that somewhere around 65% of sex crimes go unreported, and that is probably a conservative number. There are many reasons behind that number. Feelings of guilt, fear, embarrassment, and shame are all common elements for victims. The victim in this case was concerned about her identity being made public, unwanted attention, and the very real threat of public reprisals by those supporting the public official. Even though the victim wanted people to know about what happened, she was very frightened and torn.
My final point for the victim, and the one I believe ultimately led her to finally press charges, was the previous story of rape by the politician which I shared. I explained that most people who are charged with sex crimes have a history of that behavior. If they did it once without getting caught, they would do it again. If she did not go forward and press charges, she would be allowing him to continue that behavior and there would be more victims in the future.
She was very brave. She filed charges and the police arrested the politician. The media and the different political organizations had what they needed for the inevitable circus to begin. It is important to point out, that through all of this the justice system and media protected the victim’s identity. There was very damming evidence and several more of his victims came forward, including the one I had her the rumor about during the campaign I mentioned above. The politician was forced to plead guilty and he was sent to prison. And even with his guilty plea, he always publicly said he was innocent like a true politician.
There are a lot more twists and turns with this story I could write about, but I am purposely keeping this story vague to keep the community and of course the victim and her friend anonymous. The victim absolutely did the right thing, and I was more than happy that I was able to help in some capacity. Any form of sexual assault is a heinous crime. It leaves the victim with permanent psychological wounds. The feeling of vulnerability is overwhelming and even magnitudes more so when the perpetrator is an authority figure.
As more women come forward with their accusations of Donald Trump in the final days of the 2016 campaign, I cannot help to think back to my experience. There are a lot of similar dynamics between my experience and what is being described in the news. Supporters loyal to Trump feel this is some sort of campaign stunt by Hillary Clinton to discredit him which causes them to believe the stories are false. Those supporters cite the timing of the allegations. But it is important to point out that none of this would have probably happened if it were not for the leaked video of Trump bragging about what amounts to sexually assaulting women. That video was the drop of water that broke the dam, and just like in the incident I found myself in, it was the same as one victim finally having the courage to come forward publicly. In both cases, almost all the individual victims believed it was an isolated case, but once one of the victims, or in Trump’s case the video, they no longer felt their experience was isolated.
If you are a victim of sexual assault and need help, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline to receive help and advice: 800.656.HOPE (4673)