With roughly 100 million people watching, Donald Trump said just five words that could hurt — and silence — millions of women long after this election cycle ends.
“I think they want fame,” he said.
The line was recited among a long list of reasons he rattled off as he tried to discredit the long list of women who have come forward to say the Republican nominee sexual assaulted them. Ten women have now shared stories of Trump kissing, groping, or touching them without their consent. One of these women has presented six people who corroborate her account.
Trump has repeatedly denied the attacks happened, using a variety of excuses. He’s said that the women in question are too ugly for him to assault, and his surrogates have claimed that groping women without their consent doesn’t “count” as sexual assault.
But perhaps most problematic is that Trump repeatedly claims — during the debate and in other appearances this week — that the women coming forward are just seeking fame or attention.
But more women came forward in the weeks since the video — all people who were not comfortable reporting their assaults earlier, largely because of dismissive responses like the one Trump used.
ThinkProgress has previously reported on why assault victims often wait to come forward or decide never to share their stories:
In a landmark report on harassment in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that only somewhere between 6 and 13 percent of victims file a formal complaint, while less than a third talk about it with a manager or union representative. The vast majority — nearly three-quarters — say nothing at all. “The least common response to harassment is to take some formal action — either to report the harassment internally or file a formal legal complaint,” the report says.
The most common explanations victims give for staying quiet is that they fear they won’t be believed, nothing will come of speaking up, or that they will face retaliation for doing so. That last fear has frequently come to pass: One study found that three-quarters of employees who spoke out about abuse faced retaliation.
This dynamic is even more difficult to overcome if the perpetrator holds a position of power, as Trump did in all of these instances.
The claim that women would come forward for “fame” is inconceivable, given how little incentive and how many potential consequences there are for women who do.
Trump’s campaign has been embracing this type of language for weeks. By casually accusing victims of seeking fame during the GOP debate, Trump just ensured that America’s rape culture isn’t going anywhere.