No matter the outcome, this is our reality.
By Elisabeth Foster
It’s time we face the facts: no matter who is elected in the fall, a white male over the age of 65 that has been accused of sexual assault will be our next president. With a heavy heart, I encourage our nation to take a step back and acknowledge this reality.
I want to be clear— I am not saying whether I believe that either man is guilty or innocent, whether either woman is telling the truth or lying. I am focusing on a concrete fact - they have both been accused. And I believe that this in itself is cause for serious concern.
The #MeToo movement swept across our nation with competing priorities— one of disgust and dismay for those in power who continued to abuse their roles to assault women, men, and children, and one of hope that we would finally take a stand and stop letting assaulters remain unaccountable. I found the movement empowering, so empowering that I wrote a book detailing my experiences of sexual assault. I put it in writing for the world to see, for my assaulters to see, for myself to see— and that could never be undone. My voice and the voices of so many others can no longer be silenced.
That is why acknowledging this fact is so hard for me. When we vote in this election, we are voting for someone who has been accused of sexual assault. I believe that it is our civic duty to vote, and I will be voting in November (and in the run-off in Texas to come before then). But I still am grappling with the reality of our candidates.
Validating either of these men as a candidate puts a dramatic stop to the #MeToo movement. How can we expect Survivors to come forward when our highest leaders, those we democratically elect to Presidential office, are allowed to move past these allegations without so much as a scratch? We have a blip in the news cycle where we acknowledge these accusations and call out for justice, and then we move forward as though nothing has happened. We are emboldening others to brush aside allegations. If a President can get away with such disrespectful and damaging a story, why can’t anyone?
Every time a Survivor comes forward, we are emboldened to share our stories and demand more of our neighbors and leaders. And every time a Survivor is ignored, cast aside, or doubted, we are more likely to keep our stories inside. The effect this has on us is great— we ebb and flow. Survivors are one in this regard— attached to our own experiences but molded together through pain, trauma, healing, and the public reaction we watch to each story.
The following women have accused President Trump of sexual assault or misconduct: Karen Johnson, E. Jean Carroll, Alva Johnson, Ninni Laaksonen, Jessica Drake, Karena Virginia, Cathy Heller, Summer Servos, Kristin Anderson, Samantha Holvey, Lisa Boyne, Jessica Leeds, Rachel Crooks, Mindy McGillivray, Natasha Stoynoff, Jennifer Murphy, Mariah Billado, Tasha Dixon, Cassandra Searles, Bridget Sullivan, Temple Taggard McDowell, Jill Harth, Ivana Trump, Victoria Hughes.
Tara Reade, Lucy Flores, Ally Coll, Sofie Karasek, Amy Stokes Lappos, Caitlyn Caruso, DJ Hill, and Vail Kornert-Yount have come forward with sexual assault or misconduct allegations against former Vice President Biden.
That is a combined 32 women.
These two men are not the only leaders who have been accused of this injustice. We have also watched as CEOs, Hollywood stars, ordinary Americans, and numerous others were accused. The fact is that in America, someone is assaulted every 73 seconds – that’s 11,835 assaults per day. And yet of every 1,000 individuals that are assaulted, only 9 cases get referred to prosecutors, and even less, only five are prosecuted. That means only 0.5% of sexual assaulters are prosecuted.
The weight of these accusations is great. On the one hand, it challenges us to reassess our values system and call into question where we are as a nation, and on the other, it challenges us to look past those actions once the news cycles move on and accept one of these two men as our next leader and chief.
I am left with an astounding amount of questions. Questions I believe each voter, each citizen of the United States, should consider.
What does this mean about our nation? Do we live in a nation where despite movements of empowerment and truth, we cast aside flaws for power? Why do we let our political leaders lead if they don’t meet our standards? Does anyone meet our standards? How do we judge these allegations? Do we even have the right to judge these allegations for ourselves? What are the implications of both presidential candidates being accused of such an unacceptable act? Should we just vote for the candidate we believe to be the lesser of the two evils and move on?
The truth is – I don’t think I concretely know the answer to any of these questions. My knowledge on the topic is constantly evolving, and I hope yours is too. I challenge this nation to take a moment just to acknowledge the reality that is. In 2016, we elected a President who was accused of sexual assault. The year 2020 has come around, and it is time to vote again. This time we are faced with a staggering reality – regardless of who we vote for, a man accused of sexual assault will be our next President.