Over the past few months, dozens of powerful men have been fired from high-profile positions as decades-old allegations of sexual assault continue to be brought to light. Yet somehow, the most powerful man in the country has remained immune from facing the consequences of his actions. At least 19 women have accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, but dozens of politicians continue to sweep these accusations under the rug. Most recently, newly elected Sen. Doug Jones spoke about the accusations about Trump and said it's time to "move on." This type of response is exactly why so many women have remained silent for so long: because so many men continue to make it clear that their voices don't matter.
In a Sunday morning interview with CNN's State of the Union, when asked if the president should resign — as some have been pressuring him to — because of his alleged sexual misconduct, Jones responded by stating that Trump was elected even though the public knew about the accusations; therefore, according to Jones, those accusations are irrelevant.
"People had an opportunity to judge that before the election," Jones told CNN's Jake Tapper. "I think we need to move on and not get distracted by these issues."
Just last month, Jones called on Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who was accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women, to resign, stating that sexual harassment "is not a partisan issue." When pressed by Tapper to explain why President Trump should not be held to the same standard, Jones replied that Trump was "elected with those allegations at front and center."
This response is alarmingly similar to statements made by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this month. When asked during a press conference about the sexual harassment allegations against Trump, Sanders asserted that the American people, who elected Trump to office last year, simply don't care about the allegations against him.
The people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process. ... The American people knew this and voted for the president, and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process.
Trump has denied all allegations against him, but this isn't the defense made by Sanders or Jones. Instead, both seemed to suggest that it actually doesn't matter if the allegations are true or not — what matters is that the American people decided to elect Trump to the most powerful office in the country, even if he admitted to "grabbing" women by their genitals without their consent.
This argument is dangerous, degrading, and overlooks one very simple fact: sexual assault is sexual assault, regardless of how powerful the accused has become since the allegations were made. As long as politicians like Jones continue to view allegations of sexual misconduct as "distractions" rather than very real, very unacceptable issues, men in high-profile positions will continue to feel emboldened to abuse their power and take advantage of women, and many of them will likely get away with it.
Thankfully, things are changing. In the past three months alone, hundreds of women have come forward to share their stories of misconduct by more than 125 high-profile men, including movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, political journalist Mark Halperin, and actor Kevin Spacey. Many of the accused have denied the allegations but have since resigned or been terminated from their positions. This unprecedented reckoning would never have happened if society subscribed to Jones' belief that we should all "move on" once allegations are made.
Survivors of sexual assault deserve better. Women deserve better. And until even the most powerful men in the country are held accountable for their actions, women will continue using their voices to ensure that sexual misconduct is actually viewed as a non-partisan issue in any and all circumstances.
Editor's Note: This op-ed does not reflect the views of BDG Media and is part of a larger, feminist discourse on today's political climate.