President Donald Trump sent a tweet on Saturday morning that has him siding with abusers; expressing his apparent doubt and disapproval of the #MeToo movement; and questioning the credibility of anyone who comes forward with their own story of harassment or assault. The most problematic aspect of Trump's tweet, though, was that his take on sexual assault shows no respect for survivors.
"Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation," Trump tweeted. "Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone." He ends this message by asking, "Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"
This tweet comes only one day after he expressed sympathy for former White House aide Rob Porter, who was accused of spousal abuse by his two ex-wives. What it makes clear is that Trump's call for due process is aimed at only person in this equation: the accused.
It's the main problem with his tweet, but here are four other things that are wrong with Trump's message.
1. Prioritizing Abusers Over The Abused
Not once is he referencing the lives that are being "shattered and destroyed" as a result of being abused. According to data provided by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape. One third of them will still experience symptoms nine months after. For many of those accused of sexual misconduct, their lives go on, often unchanged until their actions get media attention, sometimes years and decades after the fact.
"A common thread across many cases of domestic violence is that our society tends to place blame on the victim; to believe there is something the victim should have done, or not done, to prevent the abuse," Cameka Crawford, Chief Communications Officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said in a statement to Refinery29. "The difficulties facing a victim after an instance of abuse are deep and complex and rather than being vessels of blame, guilt or shame, we should make sure that we always take an open-minded and supportive approach, and be there for them as they heal."
Trump and his administration are doing the opposite, choosing to believe their male colleague instead of the women. Even when there was photographic evidence, Trump was wishing Porter well. "It's obviously a very tough time for him. He did a very good job while he was in the White House," Trump said. "We hope that he will have a wonderful career."
2. The Idea That There Is "No Recovery For Someone Falsely Accused"
In terms of Trump, Elizabeth Renda, media director for the DNC's Women's Media Center, told Refinery29, he thinks "one man’s denial means more than a room full of women raising their voices." For someone who believes that careers and lives are universally and irrevocably ruined by an accusation, Trump's presidency seems to prove the opposite.
The man holding our nation's highest office was elected and remains leader of the free world despite having 20 accusations against him on the record. It's only recently that powerful men are being held accountable for their actions because it's only recently that an overwhelming amount of people started believing women. Even so, many famous and powerful men have been accused, and some have been punished, but not often in criminal courts.
It should be noted though, that while appearing completely unperturbed by the allegations against him, he has had no qualms in condemning other men for the same behavior. That is, as long as he perceives them as not being on his side. When Al Franken was accused of groping and sexually harassing six women, Trump made no attempts to hide his contempt, tweeting his disapproval of the Democratic senator.
When Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual misconduct was unearthed, Trump was quick to say he wasn't surprised. Weinstein had a history of making donations to the Democratic National Committee, which the DNC returned; however after the Republican National Committee finance chair, Steve Wynn was accused of sexual misconduct, the RNC didn't return his donations. Trump remained silent on the matter.
This wasn't that surprising, though, it was in line with Trump's past behavior. When Roy Moore was accused of pursuing sexual relationships with underage girls, Trump offered his full endorsement of the candidate ahead of Alabama's special Senate election. When Rob Porter is accused of abusing his ex-wives, Trump wishes him well and comments on his job performance. Trump's denouncement of sexual misconduct only surfaces when it is convenient for him as a way to criticize those he believes are against him. When those allegations are against him, then all the women are lying.
3. He Distinguishes Between Old And New Accusations
Trump says some allegations "are old and some are new." Yes, some happened decades ago while some happened this year. Does it make any of them less important? No. A study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics looked at the reasons why survivors said they didn't report sexual assault including fear of retaliation, the belief that police would not do anything to help them, and being unsure of the perpetrator's intent. The study also showed that women were progressively less likely to report sexual assault the better they knew their attacker.
The truth is, historically, women coming forward rarely have anything to gain from reporting these crimes. Now, the #MeToo movement has given some women the power to speak out about what happened to them in the past. These allegations may be "new," but they are not new crimes and that is something worth remembering.
4. He Believes False Accusations Are More Common Than They Are
Trump's main concern is with false accusations and the lives of alleged abuser that stand to be ruined by them. In reality, false accusations are very rare. Approximately only 2-8% of rape reports are false, according to a 2010 study of students at one Northeastern university. The study is "inescapably narrow: one university, and only 109 cases," as Vox pointed out in 2015, but that might be because two out of three rapes are not reported, according to RAINN. If more people felt comfortable reporting their sexual assault knowing it would be handled properly and fairly, there would be more data available.
Trump perpetuating the narrative of the #MeToo movement as some kind of "witch hunt" or as doing more harm than good is not helping victims feel heard or helped. It's introducing another layer of doubt to a system that already doubts them. If we were to truly engage in "due process," we would hear out the many people coming forward and no longer conceal, support, and praise their attackers.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)