Content warning: sexual assault
On Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 12:00 PM, a group of campus leaders from various colleges and universities across Pennsylvania denounced Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump’s degrading and offensive comments about women on a joint press call. Jasmine Rashid ‘18 (who is the Campus Journal Editor of the Phoenix but had no involvement in the production of this article) was among those campus leaders participating.
The press call was facilitated by Press Assistant at Hillary For America Jack Miller and sponsored by Hillary for Pennsylvania, which is the state office for Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. There were several other campus leaders on the call in addition to Rashid: sexual assault prevention activist and University of Pennsylvania student Sarah Zandi, Penn State University student Alexandra Necolettos, and Founder of University of Pittsburgh Students for Hillary Chelcie Alcorn. Rashid is the co-founder of the Swarthmore Women of Color Collective, also known as Women of Color Kick Ass.
Necolettos made the first statement on the call, discussing how hearing Trump’s comments from a 2005 hot mic recording, in which he bragged about forcibly kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women, shocked and angered her, particularly as a woman on a campus like Penn State’s.
“We get updates from Penn State … whenever there is a crime committed, and we get an alert sent to our cell phones. Sometimes in each day, there are … maybe even nine sexual assaults that come to my phone via text message,” Necolettos said.
She then discussed the fact that the possibility for sexual assault is a reality that women live with both on and off a college campus.
“Sexual assault can happen anywhere, and it needs to be taken seriously and addressed. What Donald Trump’s comments do is … normalize a society that is comfortable with sexual assault, and that is not ok,” she continued.
Alcorn followed Necolettos on the call, and she emphasized that, while Trump’s comments disgusted her, they did not surprise her.
“This is deeply personal to many women and men, and we all deal with it in our own way, but we have to keep reliving it because Donald Trump can’t speak with a shred of respect for women. Honestly, this kind of language is the embodiment of rape culture,” Alcorn said.
She stressed that the country must elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency because she respects survivors and their experiences, understands the problems, and has the solutions to address campus sexual assault.
After Alcorn spoke, Zandi spoke about living on a campus with a serious sexual assault problem on campus. She referenced the University of Pennsylvania’s most recent campus climate survey as an indicator of the problem, citing the statistic that one in three UPenn women can expect to be assaulted before they graduate, which is greater than the roughly one in five national average set forth by the Association of American Universities’ 2015 study on the same subject.
“I now need more than the fingers on both hands to count the number of people I know and care about who have been sexually assaulted. There’s no one single solution … but I stand behind Hillary Clinton because, unlike Trump, her policies stand behind me and behind survivors,” Alcorn said.
Rashid was the last to speak on the call, and she opened by mentioning the disconnect between how people think the culture of sexual assault is reproduced and how policy issues are focused on in the discussion of these comments. Furthermore, this disconnect is an indicator of deeply dangerous rhetoric by the Trump campaign on these issues.
“At Swarthmore College, we have a problem with underreporting assaults and skewed ideas of what consent is, because, really what this comes down to, is understanding consent and power dynamics,” Rashid said. Afterwards, she recounted the story of WOCKA’s recent visit to Washington, D.C., where she and other WOCKA members met with women of color senior advisors of President Barack Obama’s administration. She recalled discussing with those women of color how much work is still to be done in the fight for equality, and how they said that a Donald Trump presidency could set progress back by decades.
After the conversation concluded, Rashid noted that the call felt very human, and she appreciated the opportunity to share her thoughts with a wider audience. She also said she enjoyed having the agency to share her own views and how they have been informed by her identity and lived experiences.
“The other participants on the call did the same [thing], and it resulted in a really unique discussion that centered on the perspectives specifically of Pennsylvania college women at this time,” she said.
Overall, Rashid felt confident in the press call and the transparent process of it, and felt that the issues were genuinely privileged over the politics. The allegations against Mr. Trump continue to evolve as election day grows nearer.