American parents of daughters, brace yourselves.
Donald Trump indicated Tuesday that he plans to back Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple teenage girls when he was in his 30s and the youngest of the alleged victims was 14. “Look, he denies it,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for Thanksgiving vacation.
True enough. But in blindly buying the denial, Trump, who has himself been accused of assaulting more than a dozen women and has famously bragged about engaging in predatory behavior, is giving tacit approval for a new generation of grown American men to view teen girls as sex objects—to be harassed and molested, then ignored when they speak out.
Moore’s behavior was allegedly so predatory that local police officers in Alabama were reportedly warned to watch him around high school cheerleaders, and one accuser said she was responsible for banning him from a local mall. He allegedly left bruises on an 16-year-old’s neck after she fought off his attempts to rape her, plied an 18-year old with alcohol, and pushed a 14-year-old to touch his erect penis (again, all while he was in his 30s), according to the accounts of his accusers.
Trump’s Tuesday statement shows that he thinks the heart-wrenching statements from these women, many of whom voted for him, are worthless in the face of one 70-year-old man’s denial. It’s not surprising, but it’s all the more notable in the context of the #MeToo movement and the tide of complaints against high-profile men, many of whom have directly validated their accusers’ claims and apologized for their behavior.
Part of a pattern
America has never done a great job at protecting teenage girls, or treating them as if they are as valuable as teenage boys, let alone as valuable as grown men in power.
US laws still lag most developed countries when it comes to protecting them from marriage at a very young age, for example, even though early teen marriage has a proven negative impact on health and social mobility. In some US states, including New York until earlier this year, children as young as 14 can get married with the approval of a judge—and 87% of minors who marry in the US are female.
Meanwhile, Hollywood’s unending fixation with the “May-December” romance continues to make teen girls into fetishized sex objects; the onslaught of porn available on the internet is convincing them to sublimate their own sexuality to boys’; and, at least in some evangelical circles, a 14-year-old dating an adult man isn’t that uncommon.
Once every eight minutes, agencies specializing in child protective services find evidence that someone under 18 in America was sexually abused, according to RAINN, the anti-sexual abuse group, and 82% of those victims are female. About 80% of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement, an exhaustive study found.
Now add to that the horror of Trump’s standing behind Moore.
Trump’s racist remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, and African-Americans on the campaign trail were followed by a rise in hate crimes against minorities after he was elected, and through 2017. His refusal to condemn white supremacists, like those who killed a counter-protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, is being linked to anti-minority hate groups moving into the mainstream.
It’s easy to see a situation where teen girls are likely to be increasing targets as well, as men take Trump’s support of Moore as tacit approval of predatory actions—or at least a guarantee that no one will believe the girls anyway if they complain.