Republicans have proven that they will put party over victims' rights, but only if those victims are women.
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Imagine a dark parking lot out back of an Alabama diner. Roy Moore sits in a car with a teenager who works at the diner where Moore is a regular. That night, he offers the teen a ride home. Since Moore is a familiar face and a respected member of the community, the teen accepts the offer.
But then, Moore is on the teen, grasping and groping. The teen fights back pulling away. Moore is threatening, bruises are left on the teen’s neck and ringing in the teen’s ears are the words: “You’re just a child I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.”
This is the account of Mrs. Beverly Young Nelson, who came forward last month, with these allegations against Roy Moore. Moore, a disgraced and twice-disciplined judge and GOP candidate for Alabama Senate, has been accused by at least six women of harassment and assault. One woman says she was only 14 when Moore had her feel his penis through his underwear.
In spite of the chorus of women coming forward, Moore endures. After some initial hesitation, he has gained the full support of the president, the GOP, and now the RNC, who have recently decided to fully endorse him and endow his campaign with everything it needs to win. He even has the support of scores of Alabama religious leaders, as well as international leaders like Franklin Graham. And as we have seen when Trump ran for president, there are white women who will throw their support behind male candidates no matter how egregious their behavior is. Despite the closeness of the Alabama race overall, a recent poll showed that white women support Roy Moore over Doug Jones by a 20-point margin.
But what if Moore’s accuser was named Steven instead of Beverly? What if Moore’s accusers were once 14- to 16-year-old boys. Would he be poised to win a seat in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday?
There are two reasons for this: One, we as a society do not believe women when they report sexual assault. And, two, the GOP is notoriously homophobic; if a male politician is trawling for a same-sex encounter whether it be with a child or a consenting adult, that politician is gone.
I’ve written about rape, worked with countless survivors, and know the uphill battle women face when they boldly come forward. Female rape victims—no matter how “perfect” they may seem—are simply not believed. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported. They may fear the assailant may retaliate. And victims of sexual violence may believe the police can’t or won’t help.
Trump being in the White House is proof enough of this cultural bias: No Access Hollywood tape, Ivana rape allegation (then retraction), nor the word of over a dozen women coming forward to accuse him of assault or harassment could prevent voters, even women voters, from electing him into the highest office in this country. He shamed his victims, called them liars; as he explained, apparently when you are famous, “‘they just let you do it.” And then Trump publicly denied it all, which was good enough for enough people in the right states to put him in the West Wing.
The same is true with Roy Moore: He is now officially denying that he “dated” underage girls, and that he doesn’t even know “those women.” Even though Moore’s alleged actions meet the criminal standard for child molestation, his supporters put him nine points ahead of the Democratic challenger just 24 hours before voters go to the polls.
Not much in the last year of the Trump experience has surprised me. I figured once he was elected, literally anything at all could happen. But I do admit that I thought Moore was finished once the allegations emerged, that Americans could at least be on the same page about child molestation.
But I was wrong. America it seems is one unending Rubicon.
Statistically, everyone should believe these women.
Eighty-two percent of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger, according to RAINN. And, 50 percent of assaults happen within one mile of the victim’s home. Given the barriers women face when reporting abuse, the idea of false accusations as the rule rather than the exception is unfounded.
I had a conversation with Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law and advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse. She said while false claims would of course cause concern, the argument doesn’t hold water. “There are very few false claims as an empirical matter,” she told me.
The GOP prides itself on being the party of so-called family values. Abortion is murder, African-American families were better off under slavery and God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, goes their thinking. Women are vital to these religious ideologues when they fulfil their purpose of reproducing, building an army of God. Her value doesn’t extend beyond that. If a woman reports sexual assault against a powerful conservative man the backlash from men and women alike is swift and biting: she was asking for it, dressed provocatively, or is part of a liberal scheme.
Conservative groups spread the lie that homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles or child molesters; that homosexuality is “unnatural” and will lead to polygamy, incest, and bestiality. As a result any hint of homosexuality in the ranks and that person is gone.
Consider former GOP Idaho congressman Larry Craig. All it took was his wide-legged stance and slight toe-tapping in a men’s bathroom – purportedly a signal that a man is looking for gay sex – at the Minneapolis Airport for him to resign from Congress. In 2006, Republican Florida Representative Mark Foley resigned after sending sexually charged direct messages to male pages working on the floor of the House.
And there is former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who was a teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois, prior to his 20 years in Congress. Just this summer, Hastert was released from federal prison after serving 13 months for bank fraud. He had been making illegal withdrawals to cover up payments to a boy he abused over 30 years earlier in Yorkville. Hastert admitted to abusing more than one boy and made a weak apology before Judge Thomas Durkin passed down his sentence.
Durkin said to Hastert that “nothing is more disturbing than having serial child molester and speaker of the House in the same sentence.”
I would only add: in the Senate.
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