I'm angry. Not just because I continue to see prominent public figures emerge as complicit in rape culture, but because these same people have the audacity to further insult populations who are vulnerable to rape by issuing terrible apologies (i.e. transparently empty PR-mandated public statements). I'm referring specifically to allegations Ivana Trump made in the 1990s that Donald Trump sexually violated her during their marriage, a claim she recently said was "without merit," and one which he staunchly denies. When asked by The Daily Beast about Ivana's allegation, Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, stated that one cannot rape their spouse. Cohen "apologized" on Tuesday, and Trump also told The Situation Room that "obviously" his lawyer was not representing Trump's own opinion on the matter (though I'm not sure it's so obvious).
Cohen told CNN Tuesday:
In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment, which I do not believe, and which I apologize for entirely.
Honestly, I don't want to hear one single word from anyone about rape, sexual assault, or any manner of sexual abuse, much less an apology, unless it's to unequivocally denounce rape, and to affirmatively state that they will take action to combat rape culture. In other words: Save your apologies, and just stop treating women badly. Stop making jokes about rape, stop not believing rape survivors, stop saying that rape can't happen between married couples. Truly, it's the least you can do.
Given that the physical safety of populations most vulnerable to rape depend on the ability of politicians and public citizens to understand rape and further work to promote a culture of care, safety, and consent regarding sex, I have absolutely zero patience left for mea culpas from the likes of Trump's lawyer or anyone in his camp. Or, for that matter, Mike Huckabee (remember his disgusting comments about transgender women?) or Todd Akin (who could forget about "legitimate rape?"). All of these people have apologized or have had members of their political cohort apologize on their behalf, and to be blunt about it: I don't give a damn.
What Cohen and his ilk may not notice is this: While they're desperately scraping the shards of their image off the floor, others are doing real work to actively improve the lives of women, and to provide much-needed assistance to survivors of sexual violence. When there are organizations such as RAINN, Rape Victims Advocates, and After Silence on the front lines providing services and advocacy for survivors, there's little patience among allies for "sorry." "Sorry" doesn't get the message about the need for consent out there, nor does it help bring justice to victims.
The main problem with these apologies is that they amount to absolutely nothing in practice. I, frankly, do not care at all whether or not someone is "sorry" for not taking rape seriously and doing damage to the fight to disassemble rape culture. What I care about are rape victims, policies, and protections for women, trans* people (one in two trans* people will be sexually assaulted or abused), children, LGBQ people, and advocates who provide services for victims. Instead of apologizing, those who have caused harm to the fight against rape culture need to either completely shut up, or put their money where their mouth is and do something about the problem that they have been contributing to.
Politicians can support legislation that cracks down on rape (such as the recent law in New York that makes affirmative consent a legal requirement for sex on college campuses), or call positive attention to organizations that work with rape survivors (ahem, Planned Parenthood, for example). I'm sick and tired of hearing "sorry," when what we need (and what we deserve) is action.
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