Allegations Against Donald Trump Reignite Conversation On Consent

Oct 14, 2016

Earlier this month a 2005 video surfaced depicting Donald Trump bragging about groping women. Since the release, multiple women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, spurring an overwhelming response on social media, and from Republican lawmakers. For some Florida social scientists it’s an opportunity to continue the conversation about what consent is and is not.

Credit Thomas Hawk via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

Trump denies the allegations, and dismisses his speech in the video as “locker room talk”. For Florida State University sociologist Deana Rohlinger, it’s a teaching moment with her son.

“But the point that we were really able to discuss with our son is this is illegal activity, these are things you cannot do, and really talk about consent again with him,” Rohlinger said.

Across the country, Americans are struggling to have this same conversation about what unequivocal consent is and what it means. Moderators brought up the issue at the most recent presidential debate, prompting this response from Donald Trump.

“Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk. It’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS,” Trump said.

Deana Rohlinger says in a way, it’s easier to talk about terrorism than it is to talk about consent.

"I think that the problem is, is to us solving the problem of ISIS seems easier than solving the problem of sexual assault," Rohlinger said. "And it’s because you’re not just dealing with one entity. It’s not as though…we have a face when we see a victim, we have a face associated with sexual assault, but there’s just not one group of people we can blame."

According to the Global Terrorism Database, more than 3,000 Americans died in terrorist attacks from September 11th, 2001 through 2014. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows more than 280,000 Americans experience sexual assault each year. University of South Florida sociologist Sara Crawley says for many Americans, the threat of sexual violence is a reality.

“The threat of violence is pervasive seemingly across women. So it’s not just a matter of victims who’ve actually been assaulted, but it’s kind of the threat of violence and the normalizing of the threat of violence that’s particularly concerning,” Crawley said.

"I think that the problem is, is to us solving the problem of ISIS seems easier than solving the problem of sexual assault."

In the wake of the allegations, author Kelly Oxford wrote about her own assault on twitter, prompting reactions from more than 30 million users and opening a flood gate of testimonials. Prominent Republican lawmakers like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, John McCain, Mitt Romney and others also came forward, denouncing Trump's behavior. But this isn’t the first time Trump has made disparaging comments about a particular group. University of North Florida sociologist JeffriAnne Wilder argues the allegations of sexual misconduct are having a greater impact because they’re affecting Trump supporters.

"There may have been a large group of supporters who couldn't necessarily identify or understand the outrage other people felt in other communities for being denigrated for their race or their religion," Wilder said. “For a lot of people who were potentially supporting Trump before, he’s sort of attacked people that they may love and they may know. And I think that is probably the reason why we’ve seen so much outrage."

Sara Crawley at USF says backlash from the allegations is already showing up in the polls.

“It seems the statistical data is quite clear that men in the voting public and women in the voting public are responding very differently to this in terms of whether they continue to be in support of Mr. Trump or have separated from Mr. Trump,” Crawley said.

A recent poll of Florida voters by Opinion Savvy shows Hillary Clinton up by 3 points, and suggests the allegations are moving former Trump supporters towards Libertarian Gary Johnson.