Why Sexual Assault Will Never Be A Partisan Problem, No Matter How You Break Down This Election

In the wake of at least four allegations against Donald Trump — all of which he's denied — there's been a constant stream of rhetoric surrounding the GOP nominee, sexual assault in general, and how the Republican Party will handle their flailing nominee. Unfortunately, some Republicans still refuse to denounce Trump's 2005 hot mic comments about being able to grope women without consent. But despite the Republicans' insistence upon dismissing Trump's comments as "locker room talk," sexual assault isn't a partisan problem — it's a societal ill that knows no political affiliation.

Much of the coverage surrounding the most recent sexual assault allegations against Trump righteously discuss the massive implications these claims could have on the way society treats accusations against powerful men, as well as on the outcome of the election. However, there's been a disturbing trend that focuses on the myriad ways in which Republican leaders (and the party itself) dismiss the very mentality that contributes to rape culture: that men can talk about women disrespectfully with no repercussions. While those Republicans who sided with Trump and have yet to jump ship can and should be held accountable for their support of such a dangerous man, this issue is much, much larger than our two-party system, this election, and even America itself.

This is not an opportunity to argue the sexual assault allegations against Bill Clinton, or any other prominent and influential Democratic men, like so many people on Twitter have. Again, sexual assault is not stratified by party line. There is no data to suggest that Republicans rape more than Democrats, that conservatives are more likely to sexually assault a person than liberals are, or that political affiliation has anything to do with the propensity for sexual assault at all. To focus the lens on the ways Republicans are reacting to Trump diminishes the potential for a much-needed transformative discourse surrounding the prevalence of rape and sexual assault. Dwelling on party lines implicitly shifts the blame onto Republicans when, in fact, our entire society plays a role in rape culture, regardless of political affiliation. There's a reason we call it a "culture," after all.

While there is most certainly a rape problem within the upper echelons of politics around the world and among the rich and powerful, it is far from limited to just them. Rapists exist at every level of society, and sexual assault is committed by nearly as diverse a population as those who survive it. It is in many ways a great and terrible equalizer, and to frame this story within a partisan lens due to the nature of its context does a disservice to the millions of people hurt by rape culture, as well as the millions more who will be unless something changes on the societal level.