Survivors of sexual assault don’t need deadlines

 

(Courtesy: iStock)

(Courtesy: iStock)

 

Former Ryerson student and writer for People magazine, Natasha Stoynoff, is among several women who have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump.

But instead of being concerned with potentially electing an alleged sex offender as the American president, some people are more worried about how long it’s taken these women to come forward.

Talking about sexual assault is hard enough; are people seriously giving survivors deadlines?

In her first-person account published Oct. 12 by People, Stoynoff recounts being sexually assaulted in 2005 while reporting on Donald and Melania Trump’s wedding anniversary.

“We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” she wrote.

For many women and other survivors of sexual assault, Stoynoff’s experience is all too familiar.

According to Femifesto’s Use the Right Words media guide, in one American study 62 per cent of women-identified journalists reported having experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 22 per cent reported having experienced physical sexual harassment.

Trump was quick to protect his image the next day while campaigning in Florida. Trump labelled those accusing him of sexual harassment as “horrible, horrible liars” in his speech the following day, targeting Stoynoff specifically.

“Take a look. You look at her. Look at her words,” Trump said of Stoynoff. “You tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”

Trump also questioned Stoynoff’s account by asking why she didn’t mention the alleged assault in her 2005 story for People. This has remained a consistent question surrounding the allegations.  

On many articles regarding Trump and sexual assault, there are comments questioning why these women didn’t come forward when the assault took place. Some accuse the women of ‘“rigging the election” by coming forward as election day approaches.

In her article, Stoynoff lists many reasons why she couldn’t go public in 2005 with her account of the alleged assault.

“I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed,” she wrote.

And yes, Stoynoff is absolutely right. Coming forward with sexual assault can destroy careers, relationships, and lead to feelings of shame and guilt.

But the point is, Stoynoff does not have to give excuses. When, how, and if a survivor of sexual violence chooses to disclose their experience is 100 per cent their choice, and should not take away from the validity of their story. Survivors don’t need deadlines.

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