It seems to be the favored excuse by Trump defenders when attempting to discredit his sexual assault victims. And you know what? This is killing me. Much like Michelle Obama, I just can’t stop thinking about it.
I fear that this sorry excuse for an excuse is going to come up yet again in tonight’s presidential debate, so I’d like to offer a pre-emptive strike of an explanation below so that I don’t hurt someone (myself, Eric) or something (the tv, my toe smashing into the wall, the wall) while watching tonight.
I am astounded– ASTOUNDED– by how many reasonable, intelligent people have questioned Trump’s sexual assault victims with the argument, “Why now? Why are they coming forward with these accusations right before the election? Why not when it happened? Or when he became the Republican nominee? Why now?” Members of my own intelligent and well-read family have used this argument to discredit these women, and it is driving me batshit insane.
Look– if you don’t want to believe these women, then that is your prerogative (and not surprising, as sadly women are traditionally not believed in these matters). And the fact is, it’s possible that not ALL of them are being 100% truthful. That does happen, and to claim otherwise would be naive. But do yourself (and me) a favor and stop using the “But why now?” line as evidence to completely invalidate all their claims. You sound like an ignorant asshat. The “why now” is painfully obvious to anyone who takes a moment to reflect thoughtfully about the experience of a sexual assault victim, but I am happy to walk you through it slowly because, as a teacher, I understand the importance of connecting information to real-world experience. And the importance of using CAPS FOR EMPHASIS.
So here we go.
Imagine you’re a victim of sexual assault (this is easy for women, as many of us have been, and the rest of us are constantly worried we will be, which is the sad reality of female life on this planet. Men, this will be harder for you to role-play, but I have faith you can give it the old college try). One day, as a young professional woman, you are sexually assaulted by Donald Trump, a powerful and semi-famous figure. Without consent, he puts his lips forcefully on yours, then grabs your breasts and vagina. It is horrible. You feel violated and angry and, perhaps worst of all, deeply and utterly ashamed. But the assault happens at a time when the women’s movement isn’t half as strong as it is today in 2016 (and believe me, it still ain’t that great today). The culture during this time is to remain silent, stay “strong,” and prove yourself in the face of adversity by continuing to plug along without complaint. You are a working woman, proud of your success, and you had to bust ass to get where you are. You don’t want to risk losing everything you’ve accomplished.
Add to this “It’s-a-man’s-world” culture a sense of shame (because that is what women almost ALWAYS initially feel after assault, regardless of the fact that they did nothing wrong). Then sprinkle in some “Will people even believe me?” doubt. Add a dash of “I REALLY don’t want to relive this painful experience at all, much less publicly,” and you have the perfect recipe for choosing silence. For choosing to try to move on with your life and pretend it never happened– which, you don’t realize at the time, will be impossible to do. The pain remains with you, in some capacity, for your entire life. But at least with the satisfaction and confidence of knowing you will likely never have to face your assailant again, you can attempt to move on.
Then your assailant– the man who forcefully violated your body and forever left his mark on your confidence and security in this world– runs for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. You are horrified. It’s the end of primary season, and he has won the nomination, even though you convinced yourself there was no way that would happen. And yes, he is a controversial figure, but not necessarily for reasons having to do with sexual assault. True, he’s publicly made lewd comments about women, but certainly there has been no hard proof of actual physical misconduct. You are disgusted by the fact that this sex offender might actually become president of the free world, and you begin to contemplate coming forward with your story.
But at this point, who would believe you? Why should anyone buy that you are being truthful? That you’re not just some pro-Hillary fanatic who desperately wants to keep Trump out of the White House? After all, you have no proof. The scars are internal. And it happened YEARS ago. So if you come forward, there is no doubt that the Trump base will call you a liar, character assassinate you, question your motives, and throw you into a horribly negative spotlight. Why put yourself through that when, at the end of the day, you have no viable evidence to prove to the world that Trump would commit this kind of act?
And then– now pay attention to this part– Trump is caught on tape ADMITTING HE COMMITS THIS KIND OF ACT. (Maybe reread that. It’s important to this whole “Why now?” claim). HE ADMITS TO THE EXACT CRIME HE COMMITTED TOWARDS YOU. And the entire world hears it!
“Thank god,” you think. “Now it’s out there. Now everyone knows. I didn’t have to come forward and sacrifice my privacy and publicly relive the horror– he just ADMITTED, in his own vulgar words, to the crime he committed. And I’m not the only one! This is not my fault. This is WHO HE IS. Surely no one will vote for him now.”
But then your assailant’s words are widely dismissed as “locker room talk.” And his supporters eat it up! They’re casual and cool with the concept of bragging about sexual assault in locker rooms. Or outside of locker rooms. They are not understanding that Trump’s words were an ACTUAL DESCRIPTION OF WHAT HE DOES. But you are the proof that they are not just words.
Add Trump’s flat-out denial to Anderson Cooper in the 2nd debate, and you’ve had enough. You can’t let a sexual predator and bold-faced liar be the symbol of this country. Will you be dragged through the mud? Possibly. But at least now you have a leg to stand on. Now, you have Trump’s ADMISSION to the acts, and you have the comfort of knowing, through Anderson Cooper’s question, that people are legitimately suspecting Trump has done these things. And you are the proof they need. You can do this for your country. You can stop this predator from leading the free world. You can take back the power he stole from you.
And after all that, with all that on your side– PEOPLE STILL DON’T BELIEVE YOU. “Why now?” they say.
Ok, you can stop role-playing now. I know that wasn’t fun.
Here’s the bottom line– people typically don’t like to be assaulted twice. And make no mistake, when a woman comes forward about sexual assault, particularly involving a public figure, that is exactly what happens to her. She is assaulted all over again. She is called a liar. She is degraded, mimicked, labeled ugly and disgusting. Her motives are questioned. In some cases, she receives death threats. She is character-assassinated. Every mistake she’s ever made in her life is dug up and broadcast for public consumption and judgement.
So “Why now?” How about, “Thank god now.” These women have no reason to subject themselves to this second assault. They could have just continued quietly with their lives and never revisited their pain in such a public and excruciating way.
In coming forward, they are so very, very brave. And they are doing it for us. To protect us from having an abuser of women become the leader of our nation and the role model to our children.
I, for one, am grateful.