How ‘Don’t vote for him!’ became ‘He raped a child!’

With only a few days left, I’ve decided to break my vow. Until three days ago, I was absolutely dedicated to not write a single sentence about either one of the two candidates in the presidential elections (although I must admit, I also had very little to say about them…). Last Wednesday, however, a single tweet made me change my mind:

“BREAKING: woman who sued Donald Trump for child rape will appear for the first time and speak out with her new attorney Lisa Bloom today”

The tweet came with a link. No need to click; the site isn’t working. Try again in a few weeks, insha’Allah.

I’m outraged, and not with Donald Trump. A child rape accusation is being used in the most infuriating way: as a tool to attack and defame another person. Truth-finding, the one thing that matters most when child abuse accusations are being voiced, is not even brought up. ‘He raped a child!’ simply became the new ‘Don’t vote for him!’. Does anyone even care whether Donald Trump has or has not raped a thirteen-year-old girl at that party?

How did we get to this point? Before the child rape case resurfaced, we witnessed a series of ‘normal’ rape and sexual assault accusations. As more and more women came forward, these accusations became exactly that: normal. These days, simply being raped as an adult women is not good enough anymore. Society’s message to those who faced rape in adulthood has now become ‘too bad, but not all that spectacular’. This slippery slope of societal desensitisation is disgusting and damaging.

Whoever is it that’s benefitting from this week’s accusations against Trump, it is certainly not the abused. Quite the opposite, I would say. Rape and sexual assault is never normal. Individual cases can’t be compared in terms of bad – worse – worst; experiencing sexual assault is always worst. Every single case matters, regardless of whether the victim is young or old, male or female, assaulted by a billionaire or by their next door neighbour. Yet, as the media focus on the next and even more sensational story, so will policy-makers.

Damage has irreversibly been done to the credibility of all victims of sexual violence. For victims, disclosing sexual abuse requires courage; not in the least because, very probably, someone somewhere will say you’re lying. Already, people tend to mistrust accusations of sexual abuse or assault much more often compared to accusations of, let’s say, theft or fraud. This perfectly-timed reappearance of child rape allegations against a presidential candidate, followed by a cancelled press conference and voluntary dismissal of all charges, certainly doesn’t help. Jane Doe may have been speaking the truth, or she may not have; there’s no way of knowing. For a substantial part of the American people, however, this case is yet another example of someone fabricating a story of child sexual abuse for secondary gain; be it attention, money, pity, or political power.

The final sentences of this rant are for Lisa Bloom, Jane Doe’s attorney. Here’s what she had to say:

“Every woman makes her own own choice about what is best for her. Life’s a journey. Most of us get stronger as we get older.”

Kudos for the lousiest summary of a court case ever.

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