By Jerry Flores, author of Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration
This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 #Election2016
Recently, a video of presidential candidate Donald Trump making sexist, lewd, and offensive comments about women flooded media coverage. In the video, Trump can be heard saying, “I just start kissing them [women]. Just kiss—I don’t even wait. And when you are a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy. Whatever you want.” A reporter laughed aloud at these statements.
After the release of this video a slew of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Mr. Trump. Even more problematic is that videos and quotes have also emerged. With this new information the resounding theme of the hyper-sexualization of women, the use of sexist language and the objectification of women’s bodies are exceedingly clear. In response, Trump apologized and referred to this type of language as “locker-room talk.” He also affirmed that he holds the utmost respect for women. Despite these statements, Mr. Trump’s discussion of women reflects the larger hyper-sexualization of women in a patriarchal society that largely ignores this type of sexual misconduct. There is no place where this is more painfully apparent than in the narratives of marginalized young women (especially women of color) featured in my book Caught Up.
Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Those We Trust
In this book, I address how the schools and detention centers in Southern California are collectively punishing young Latina girls in new and dynamic ways. For this project, I interviewed over 30 young women and included twenty more via group interviews or ethnographic fieldwork. The ubiquitous sexual abuse of young women was the largest and most pervasive theme I heard during my two years of research. Interview after interview, I heard young women recount instances of this type of abuse at the hands of immediate and distant family, neighbors, students at school, current and ex-romantic partners, institutional actors, priests, human traffickers or by complete strangers.
Another major theme in my research was the relative impunity with which these men continually victimized the young people in my study. From stories of gang sexual assault at the hands of boys told by “Feliz” or stories of being molested by multiple neighbors over the course of various years like “Ray,” sexual violence was ubiquitous in the lives of young women.
Additionally, while local, state and federal governments always seemed to have the resources to punish young women, they often lacked the ability to provide resources to help youth cope with their prior and current sexual assault. As a person who is concerned with the well being of these young women, my wife, mother, cousins, and all women, I wonder how Trump’s type of “locker-room talk” emboldens and perpetuates the ongoing assault and abuse of young women, and rape culture as a whole. I also wonder what message it sends to men of all ages when they hear how Mr. Trump has allegedly victimized so many women and gotten away with it. This is even more shocking since Donald Trump is a presidential candidate that has the support of large segments of the U.S. population.
As an academic, feminist and victim of childhood sexual assault, I hope that we as a society can find a way to stop the continued attack on women and more broadly on all marginalized and oppressed groups. I also hope that we come to our senses and realize that a person who preys on the weak and exploits their privilege to do so is not someone we want as our president.
Jerry Flores is a Ford Foundation Fellow, University of California President’s Postdoc, and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma.