Nearly six months after tapes were released of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, Donald Trump declared on Friday that April is officially National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Citing the 300,000 people who are sexually assaulted or raped every year, Trump also proclaimed that his administration — specifically the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice — is stepping up to assist victims and prevent future attacks.
The bulk of his proclamation is a series of platitudes rather than a substantive plan to address rampant sexual violence and rape culture. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reportedly been told to establish a crime reduction and public safety task force to “develop strategies to reduce crime and propose new legislation to fill gaps in existing laws.” Trump also noted the importance of speaking out against sexual violence among peers, “mobilizing men and boys as allies in preventing sexual and relationship violence,” and showing women and children more respect.
“Together, we can and must protect our loved ones, families, campuses, and communities from the devastating and pervasive effects of sexual assault,” he said. “In the face of sexual violence, we must commit to providing meaningful support and services for victims and survivors in the United States and around the world.”
But it’s difficult to take this proclamation seriously, coming from a man who was filmed suggesting celebrities “can do anything” to women — such as “grab them by the pussy” — and who has a long, documented history of the type of misogyny that allows sexual violence to thrive. He routinely reduces women’s worth to their looks, implying that women who have publicly accused him of assault are too unattractive for their stories to be true. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you. Man, you don’t know, that would not be my first choice,” he said during a campaign rally. On the campaign trail, Trump also argued that women who are sexually harassed at work should quit, shortly before hiring serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes.
It’s also hard to treat seriously Trump’s plan to protect victims in the U.S. and worldwide. His proposed budget threatens funding to uphold the federal Violence Against Women Act and bolster support for survivors. One of his first acts as President was to reinstate the global gag rule, gutting foreign aid to much-needed health service providers if they offer abortions — the very types of providers who assist survivors of sexual violence.
Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, also donated to FIRE, a group that purportedly fights for individual’s freedom on school campuses and allegations of sexual assault. The group once wrote:
“Unfortunately, much of the feminist ‘war on rape’ has conflated sexual assault with muddled, often alcohol-fueled, sexual encounters that involve miscommunication, perhaps bad behavior, but no criminal coercion. As a result, the drunken hookups all too common on today’s campuses can lead to devastating charges and penalties.
April has long been recognized as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The U.S. started observing the month in 2001, and since then, survivors and allies have used it for public education campaigns and activism.