During the 2016 presidential campaign, I was often shook by Trump’s unpredictability. Now as we approach two years of having the Big Orange dominating our headlines, I realize there’s something that is almost boringly predictable: Trump acts like the typical abuser. When Trump mocked both Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the #metoo movement at the Montana rally, he was doing exactly what someone who is an admitted sexual predator does: discrediting anything that might lead to his accountability.
Trump said, “We will take that little kit and say—but we have to do it gently. It’s the ‘Me Too’ generation, so we have to be very gentle. And we will gently take the kit and slowly toss it, hoping it didn’t hit her and injure her arm. Even though it weighs only 2 ounces.” It’s a confusing, unfunny statement, but its message is clear: #metoo, Warren, and rape reports are a joke.
Like a true narcissist, Trump loves rallies. Its benefits are multifold; it both boosts his ego and it allows him to attack his opponents to avoid accountability. Trump had so many skeletons in his closet; it was inevitable for the door to eventually bust open and have some skeletons roll out into the light. So now that he can no longer keep pretending that nothing happened, he’s on the offensive.
Rape culture is largely a war waged with words used to sway others to be at least complicit in their actions. Now that he cannot deny that he—a rapist in the White House—has numerous reports and evidence against him, he rallies people to join in his cruelty. It’s like that one-two punch to his victims—and, in turn, all the victims out there. The laughter and cheering in response to his rape “joke” about a DNA test and Sen. Warren. See? He says between the lines. Thousands of people don’t believe you. What happened to you is no big deal.
When victims don’t think they’ll be believed, they shut up. When they keep silent, abusers continue to harm with impunity. We’ve seen the consequences of this firsthand and Trump only seems to be getting more bold. His new communications director is perfect for the job: Bill Shine, the former Fox News leader who covered Roger Ailes’s own abuses for years. Who better to lead Trump’s efforts in constantly gaslighting the country?
Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, MD, gives different examples to show how assailants on every scale follow the same efforts to avoid getting punished for their crimes. When reflecting on Trump’s use of a rally to get people to publicly laugh at rape victims, I found this one example discussing the aftermath of dictatorship especially resonates.
…[The perpetrators] have no interest in public truth-telling. On the contrary, they remain implacably committed to secrecy, and fiercely opposed to any effort to establish a reckoning of their abuses. Faced with the prospect of accountability, perpetrators often become extremely aggressive. To resist being brought to justice, they will marshal the same methods of intimidation and deceit that they once used to dominate their victims…Perpetrators will do anything in their power to preserve the principle of impunity. They demand amnesty, a political form of amnesia.
Trump is clearly feeling threatened by #metoo’s rise—and this “prospect of accountability”—and he trying to weaken it, one letter at a time.
This is public intimidation aimed to protect Trump, plain and simple. This is exactly the Trump that has always existed and now he is doing it on a larger scale. It’s one thing for an abuser to think they can get away with anything; it’s another thing for millions of people to publicly agree with him. Before he didn’t have to tell many people that sexual assault victims are liars to escape accountability. Now, as president of the United States, he can have millions of people join him in the constant battle against impunity.