If I presented you with a bowl of Skittles, and then you heard Donald Trump brag on tape about how he loves to poison Skittles, and then 16 different women told you that he definitely poisoned the Skittles in that bowl, would you still eat the Skittles?
Probably not, but according to a recent poll, one in five Americans would still vote for Trump.
That’s right. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows 68 percent of Americans believe that Trump “probably” assaulted women, and about 20 percent would still vote for him. As I’ve written before, this election has been a master class in how powerful men get away with abusive behavior. We’ve seen it happen in the entertainment industry when men like Bill Cosby or Woody Allen sustained vibrant careers for decades despite credible accusations of abuse, because fan were willing to overlook the allegations.
But in Trump’s case, this isn’t Hollywood — it’s the White House. If Trump bragged, “When you're a star, they let you do it. … You can do anything,” in 2005, what do we think he believes he can get away with when he’s the most powerful man in the world? If Trump lied to Anderson Cooper when Cooper asked him, during a nationally televised debate, whether Trump had assaulted women, what else has he lied about? Apparently one in five Americans are willing to find out the hard way.
The truth is, men like Trump get the benefit of the doubt. As thousands of women have used the hashtag #WhyWomenDontReport to explain why they didn’t report their own assault, it has become clear that for millions of victims, not reporting is unfortunately the least taxing choice. The women who have come forward have had their privacy infringed on and their reputations attacked; one even had to leave the country for fear for her own safety. All they did was report. Trump is the one who is being accused, and yet he gets to claim he is the victim, keep campaigning, and remain in a tight race for the highest office in the country.
When a victim has to leave the country while her alleged abuser may literally become president, that’s rape culture neatly tied into a perfectly depressing bow. In fact, Mindy McGillivray, a woman who said Trump groped her in 2003, says she no longer feels safe after coming forward with her story. “We feel the backlash of the Trump supporters. It scares us. It intimidates us. We are in fear of our lives,’’ she told the Palm Beach Post. “I look out the window and there are cars just driving around the house and looking, slowing down right at the house.’’
But let’s keep giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, because at this point, who knows who is telling the truth. It’s a classic he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said. And even if PolitiFact has rated 71 percent of Trump’s statements over the course of the election as false or mostly false, we should definitely believe him this time. The law, after all, is innocent until proven guilty, and he is the law-and-order candidate. He certainly wouldn’t support assuming someone’s guilt without trial, like, I don’t know, his political opponent?
If Melania Trump can write off her husband’s predatory behavior toward women as “boy talk,” maybe a boy isn’t what we need in the White House. Maybe seeing what a woman can do in that role couldn’t have come at a better time.