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Trump’s perverse behavior is our problem too

Our culture minimizes sexual assault, from denying its prevalence, to blaming women for its occurrence I have a confession to make. My wife set me straight. In reaction to the Donald Trump sexual assault controversy, my wife,

Our culture minimizes sexual assault, from denying its prevalence, to blaming women for its occurrence

I have a confession to make. My wife set me straight.

In reaction to the Donald Trump sexual assault controversy, my wife, Joi stated on social media that she was a victim of sexual assault. I knew about it, but she had never said it publicly and never talked to our daughter about it. When I asked her about posting it, she simply said: “why do I need to be ashamed?” She reminded me that, while women were saying plenty about this issue on social media, the guys were more apt to be silent — including me.

Joe Richardson, Esq.

Joe Richardson, Esq.

“I just don’t think that you guys get it,” she said.

Joi’s right. I’ve been married to her for 18 years, knew all about it, and should have understood how much these allegations, and Trump’s reaction, would affect her.  And, when she posted it, the thoughts I had were selfish. They weren’t thoughts of support. And I hadn’t expressed a word of support since she posted it.

The fact that Trump, now a presidential candidate, would brag that he was allowed to sexually assault females because of his star status should give one pause about the integrity and character of the candidate. Many would state in his defense that these statements caught on tape occurred many years ago; even Jerry Falwell Jr. has used the weight of his name and pulpit to proclaim that Trump is a “changed man.” Indeed, there is something to the notion of forgiveness and repentance.  However, repentance involves sincere regret that leads to a change in conduct. The Bible says “you shall know them by their fruits.”

What kind of fruit is Trump bearing these days?  Has he “changed?”  Since these revelations, Trump has attacked his accusers, even alluding to their looks and stating “she would not have been my first choice,” essentially demonstrating there has been no character growth from that period of time. Trump surrogates answering for his words and conduct on television have been dancing around questions in ways that would put MC Hammer to shame.  And while none of us were there for any of these alleged scenarios involving Trump, these women have sacrificed both privacy and peace to counter Trump’s emphatic denials that he had ever done what he essentially admitted during his “hot mic” moment over 10 years ago.

Suddenly, Trump supporters want to talk about the “issues,” and the media is to blame for a lack of focus on ISIS, the economy, and jobs. However, Trump is a media magnet and thus, a prisoner of his own success. What he says and does is news. In fact, it is this ability, more than his political knowledge or campaign organization, that fueled interest in his presidential campaign at all. And, as my wife reminded me, sexual assault is an issue that needs to be discussed often and always.

In the California Penal Code, Sexual assault is dealt with in Section 243.3.  It prohibits touching the intimate part of another person for purposes of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. Sexual battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony in California. But, the discussion here should not be about just whether laws were potentially broken. In all likelihood, Trump will never deal with these issues in criminal court. The question is whether a candidate for president has used his position of influence and power to facilitate and justify unjustifiable conduct toward women and whether his words and conduct today fail to recognize the seriousness of those actions.

If Donald Trump did what he said he did on the hot mic, he knew it was wrong.  While his supporters state that these issues should be dealt with in a court of law, the presidency is decided in the court of public opinion. And every day, with every speech Trump makes, and every tweet he delivers, that court deliberates.

To be honest, this is not just Trump’s problem. Our culture, that minimizes sexual assault in our society, from denying its prevalence, to blaming women for its occurrence, has to be changed. This culture encourages women to stay in the shadows, or risk ridicule by speaking out about things that actually happened to them. It must be dealt with. And, Trump aside, the idea that we are having a discussion at all about how one should react to a person admitting that they sexually assaulted females shows how far we have yet to come as a society.

In short, Trump’s attitude about sexual assault fits nicely within the culture that we have created that objectifies women and denies or minimizes their real pain.  Politics aside, everyone with a mother, wife, daughter, sister, or aunt should be appalled.

The agreement of some with Trump’s characterization of sexual assault as “locker room talk” should give us focus on where our work should be begin. In fact, if sexual assault is, in anyone’s mind, “locker room talk,”  then we have two things to work on; not only rooting out sexual assault, but rooting out “locker room talk” referring to sexual assault. With some focus and honest self-reflection in our society on this key issue, perhaps this will be Donald Trump’s greatest contribution to our American discourse.

Joe Richardson, Esq. is a native son of South-Central Los Angeles, and an attorney practicing tort, contract, and labor, and employment law in Southern California for more than 15 years. He also teaches and speaks on legal issues.

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