Trump’s lewd comments could spark change

By Duke Staff

It was disgusting, it was offensive, but maybe it can do a little bit of good.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting women, made in 2005 on a “Hollywood Access” bus, are probably familiar to everyone in the United States who hasn’t been living in a bunker for the last week. The comments came to light in a video leaked to the Washington Post and published Saturday, and include Trump talking about grabbing women by their genitals and kissing women without permission.

All decent people, including many Republican politicians who formerly supported Trump, recoiled from the comments. It’s horrible that they were ever said, and it’s horrible that American children and people from other countries are witnessing this kind of talk from a potential president. But perhaps all the attention Trump’s comments are getting can raise awareness of sexual assault in the U.S. and the “boys will be boys” culture that promotes it.

Trump tried to excuse his words by calling them “locker-room talk,” as though sexual assault is a common topic for men to discuss when in private. It’s that mentality, the idea that men cannot prevent themselves from thinking about women in violent, sexual ways, that prevents meaningful change in the prevention of sexual assault and rape.

This is an issue that hits home for students on college campuses, where 23 percent of women report receiving unwanted sexual contact ranging from touching to kissing to rape, according to a Sept. 2015 CNN story. Perhaps this is the wake-up call that students needed to realize that sexual assault and rape culture are very real, very disturbing problems.

It can be easy to dismiss claims that a rape-promoting culture exists if you don’t witness it yourself. Now it has been laid bare in brutal fashion for the whole world to see.

“It is an educational moment,” Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It is sending a positive message to women and girls that sexual assault is unacceptable, and that talking or bragging about it is unacceptable, and that is a move in the right direction.”

Regardless of your political leanings, assault is wrong and illegal. Being mindful of the way your words and actions shape the culture surrounding sexual assault is the primary step toward ending it.