This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
College students from across Pennsylvania spoke out today against GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent lewd comments about women and allusions to sexual assault in a conference call organized by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“Trump’s words have a very real impact on survivors,” said Jasmine Rashid, a Swarthmore student and co-founder of Swarthmore Women of Color Collective. “They’re normalizing this kind of behavior.”
Alexandra Necolettos, a student at Penn State, agreed.
“Sexual assault can happen anywhere, and it needs to be taken seriously and addressed,” said Necolettos. “When Trump laughs off those comments as locker-room talk, people become accustomed to that.”
Trump came under fire late last week when the Washington Post reported that Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone. The Post released the video, setting off a torrent of criticism of Trump.
Clinton denounced the comments, and several of Trump’s Republican supporters have backed away from him since the tape became public.
Chelcie Alcorn, founder of University of Pittsburgh Students for Hillary, said she wasn’t surprised when she first heard about Trump’s comments, but “when I actually watched the video, I was thoroughly disgusted. This man is the perfect encapsulation of privilege.”
Sarah Zandi, a student at the University of Pennsylvania and a sexual assault prevention activist, said she was most depressed by the Trump campaign’s dismissive response to the video.
“Which locker room is he talking about?" she said. "Sometimes I worry that people will perceive rape culture as a subset of American culture.
“Penn’s most recent campus climate survey reports that one in three women … can expect to experience sexual assault before they graduate.”
Rashid said that Swarthmore has a problem of students underreporting sexual assaults.
“One of the main reasons is that there’s a degree of shame for women who are victimized,” Rashid said. “Trump could literally take us back decades for women’s equality. For all the survivors out there, our message as a nation needs to be that we are with you.”
Alcorn said, “You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman in this country who doesn’t have to deal with these kind of comments. This kind of language is the embodiment of rape culture. Sexual assault is very real.
“Hillary Clinton is addressing it, and Donald Trump is perpetuating it.”