Donald Trump is upholding an Obama-era tradition that has some asking if there's an elephant in the room. The man who once boasted about grabbing women by their genitals is turning has once again turned his attention to the prevention of sexual assault. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, President Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month" in a statement released Friday by the White House.
"Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability," the presidential proclamation read. "These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately: in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace. We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."
In 2010, former President Barack Obama was the first president to officially proclaim April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month in an effort to lift the shame and stigma that can surround sexual violence and increase support for survivors. The tradition has been carried over by the Trump administration. In fact, this isn't the first time Trump has declared April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month; he issued a similar proclamation in 2017 — and it was just as awkward then as it is now.
What makes Trump's proclamation particularly newsworthy are the comments he's made about touching or kissing women without their consent. Moreover, at least 16 women have gone on the record to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct. Those accusations range from assault, unwanted groping, nonconsensual kissing, sexual harassment, and walking in on women while they were in various stages of undress. Trump has strongly denied these allegations and has called his accusers "liars."
The White House has also echoed Trump's denial with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters the White House's official position is that all of the women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct, assault, or harassment are lying. "We've been clear on that from the beginning," Sanders told a reporter from CBS News during an Oct. 27 press briefing.
Yet a 2005 tape recorded during one of Trump's appearances on Access Hollywood appeared to show the former real estate mogul bragging about being able to kiss and touch women without their consent. "When you're a star, they let you do it," Trump can be heard saying on the tape, which surfaced during the election. "You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."
In the proclamation issued Friday by the White House, Trump said his administration was committed to "empowering victims to identify perpetrators so that they can be held accountable." The president noted that "too often... the victims of assault remain silent" as they "may fear retribution from their offender" of have little faith in the justice system.
Yet it's not hard to see why a sexual assault survivor might not have faith in the justice system when you consider some of the things judges have said to victims. Last year, a Utah judge praised a man being convicted of object rape and forcible sexual abuse as "an extraordinarily good man" and a "great man" in front of his two victims. And in 2016, a New Jersey judge allegedly asked a woman if she'd tried to stop an alleged rape by closing her legs.
"We must encourage victims to report sexual assault and law enforcement to hold offenders accountable, and we must support victims and survivors unremmittingly [sic]," President Trump's proclamation reads. As part of that support, the president announced the Justice Department would create a Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Services Technical Assistance Center to help organizations and community officials better understand how to respond to sexual assault.
"Through a concerted effort to better educate ourselves, empower victims, and punish criminals, our Nation will move closer to ending the grief, fear, and suffering caused by sexual assult [sic]," Trump's presidential proclamation reads. "The prevention of sexual violence is everyone’s concern."