According to The New York Times, Trump allegedly groped a woman by the name of Jessica Leeds 30 years ago, grabbing her breasts and attempting to put his hand up her skirt when the then-38-year-old was sitting next to him on a flight.
Florida-native Mindy McGillivray says Trump grabbed her butt at the GOP candidate’s Palm Beach home in 2003, the outlet reports.
Two years later, Trump allegedly kissed 22-year-old Rachel Crooks “directly on the mouth” without her consent.
Around the same time, People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff says Trump attempted to force himself on her while she was interviewing him.
The multiple allegations of assault came less than a week after an uncensored 2005 video was released that featured the GOP candidate bragging to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush that he “just kisses” women without their consent, and “grabs them by the pussy” because “you can do anything” to women when you’re famous.
On Oct. 10, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told The Weekly Standard: “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch,” in reference to the 2005 leaked audio. Sean Spicer, a RNC spokesperson, also said that he doesn’t believe the leaked audio describes sexual assault. “I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer,” Spicer told The Weekly Standard.
Both Trump’s comments and the allegations against him (if true), do fall under the category of sexual assault. Groping and kissing a person without their consent is, indeed, a form of sexual assault.
Attempts from Sen. Sessions and other Trump supporters to sanitize these actions as less than assault are emblematic of a larger issue: Some people think that if a sexual assault is not brutal or penetrative, it’s not assault. That is simply not the case.
Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer at NSVRC, explained that any type of unwanted groping, touching or kissing is certainly in the definition of sexual assault.
“It is absolutely on the continuum of sexual violence,” Houser told The Huffington Post. “There are a lot of different ways that people can be sexually violated and exploited that don’t need to require any physical contact, let alone sexual penetration. Sexually violent acts fall along a continuum that go from no contact to very brutal physical violations such as rape or sexual homicides. And we absolutely include any unwanted touching, kissing and groping on that continuum.”
Just because many Trump supporters and political pundits can’t define sexual assault, that doesn’t mean what these women say they experienced isn’t assault.
For the record, the United States Department of Justice defines sexual assault as follows:
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
Anti-sexual violence organization RAINN includes “fondling or unwanted sexual touching” with their definition of sexual assault, while the National Sexual Violence Resource Center defines “unwanted sexual contact or touching” as a type of sexual violence.
“We never sit back and say someone was overreacting to having a gun pulled on them just because the trigger wasn’t pulled,” Houser said. “This is the same kind of thing. You can’t qualify whether or not the amount of fear a person feels is appropriate ― it is what it is.”
Houser urged people to take a look at their own state’s sexual assault statutes. “If you look at the statutes in most states they’re going to have some part of a sexual assault code that covers non-consensual sexual contact either over or under clothing ― and that includes touching of the sexual areas,” she said.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.