Donald Trump’s leaked comments about women are worse than offensive. They’re a graphic description, and even a celebration, of sexual assault.
“When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump tells Billy Bush in a 2005 backstage audio recording from Access Hollywood. “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Shortly after the tape was released, author Kelly Oxford tweeted about how these comments were an example of rape culture — making sexual assault seem like no big deal, instead of recognizing it for the traumatic and heinous crime that it is.
And after Oxford sent a tweet encouraging women to share their own stories of sexual assault, the response was overwhelming.
Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren't just stats. I'll go first:— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) October 7, 2016
Old man on city bus grabs my "pussy" and smiles at me, I'm 12.
Oxford received thousands of responses, and sometimes she would get multiple replies per second.
women have tweeted me sexual assault stories for 14 hours straight. Minimum 50 per minute. harrowing. do not ignore. #notokay— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) October 8, 2016
Oxford has flagged an impressive number of the responses to her tweet with Twitter “likes” as a way to catalogue them and encourage people to read them.
Some women used Trump’s own words to describe their sexual assaults, which brought home just how violent his imagery was. (The tweets below are embedded with permission.)
@kellyoxford— (@leahmcelrath) October 8, 2016
Not my 1st, but I used to walk 2.5 miles to & from work in NYC because my pussy was violently grabbed so often on the subway.
Women described being assaulted as children or as young women; at parties or on public transportation; by family friends or by strangers. Many women described multiple assaults.
The circumstances varied, but the sheer volume of stories showed just how exhaustingly common it is for women to have these kinds of experiences. And that’s #NotOkay, as noted in a hashtag that accompanied many of the tweets.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has inspired women to speak publicly about abuse, but it’s surely the most widespread. For months, reporters like Melissa Jeltsen of the Huffington Post have been hearing from domestic violence survivors that Trump reminds them of their abusers. I’ve observed from own my experience that Trump uses classic tactics of emotional abuse in public.
Victims of rape and abuse are often reluctant to tell their stories in public for fear of being disbelieved or stigmatized, and that silence can reinforce the illusion for victims that they are alone.
If the man who assaulted me had been caught on tape talking about assaulting me, people probably wouldn't have called me a liar. But. (4)— Sarah Gailey (@gaileyfrey) October 8, 2016
If you're appalled by this situation, ask yourself: do you require a man's testimony to legitimize a woman's story? (5)— Sarah Gailey (@gaileyfrey) October 8, 2016
But social media has become a crucial tool to help break that silence — and to prove that behavior and attitudes like Trump’s are more common than we’d like to believe.