For many of us, today is a bleak day. Donald Trump, a man with no political or military experience, has somehow garnered enough electoral votes to win the highest office in the land, and we're all stunned, wondering how the fuck this happened. One thing is clear, though: Americans would rather elect an alleged sexual predator to the highest office in the land than Hillary Clinton, a woman beyond qualified for the position.
Last month, the Washington Post released a 2005 video recording in which Trump crudely admitted to assaulting women without their consent. "You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them," he says. "It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait."
"And when you're a star, they let you do it," Trump continues. "You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."
It was, arguably, a campaign's worst nightmare. After the video became public, Trump said he was "embarrassed" and called his comments "locker room talk." Women who'd experienced sexual violence reported feeling triggered from the national discourse. Then, more women started sharing their stories, accusing Trump directly. One woman said he groped her breasts when she sat next to him on a plane; another said he pinned her in a room at his home and kissed her; another woman claims he raped her when she was 13; the list goes on.
But, somehow, all of that wasn't enough to deter his supporters. According to CNN, a reported 53 percent of white women cast their ballot for the Republican yesterday.
Sharmili Majmudar is the executive director of Rape Victim Advocates, an independent nonprofit in Chicago working on behalf of sexual assault survivors. What's been particularly concerning, she tells Broadly, is "the ways in which issues of sexual violence and survivors of sexual violence were dismissed or disbelieved, or had what happened to them minimized, not only in the course of this campaign but also just overall in our society."
"We have an [incoming] president who has active accusations against him as it relates to sexual violence," she continues, "and I think that concerns a lot of survivors."
Majmudar admits that "it remains to be seen" how a Trump presidency will impact advocacy efforts for sexual assault victims. But, she says, during the course of the campaign, Rape Victim Advocates saw an uptick in activity. "We've actually seen an increase in people reaching out to us for counseling services and legal advocacy services who've specifically cited the public discourse of sexual violence as a reason they have decided to reach out."
Laura Dunn is the founder and executive director of SurvJustice, a national nonpartisan nonprofit that serves campus sexual assault survivors. She says they're prepared to help survivors no matter what the political future holds. "We are unsure if the White House Task Force to Protect Students Against Sexual Assault will continue," she tells Broadly. If it does end, she says, groups that serve sexual assault survivors may not have as many tools at their disposal. "But because we are a legal organization," she says, "we still have the courts."
Another potential issue is funding. If, in the future, budgets are slashed in the Office of Violence Against Women or Office of Victims of Crime, some victim advocacy groups that depend on government grants might not be able to continue operating. SurvJustice, for its part, is self-sustaining, "so our services will continue as they always have continued," Dunn says.
In an open letter, the advocacy group End Rape on Campus (EROC) similarly addressed the potentially tenuous position anti-sexual violence groups may now find themselves in. "It is easy to feel powerless when the future seems so uncertain," they wrote. "We have the agency to ensure that survivors everywhere hear that their experiences are valid, know that they are believed, and ensure that they are cared for no matter who is in office."
Rather than being discouraged or cowed, advocates feel that their work is more important now then ever. As EROC put it, "We are committed to ending sexual violence and supporting survivors… We are here for you, and we aren't going anywhere."