In the final months of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump faced allegations of sexual assault, groping, and sexual harassment. These charges caused the largest spike in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline to date, as well as an unprecedented outpouring on social media as survivors of sexual and gender-based violence shared their own personal stories, often under the hashtag #notokay.
This hashtag was originally launched by comedian and writer Kelly Oxford when she posted a tweet on her assault and asked for other women to share theirs:
Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren't just stats. I'll go first:
Old man on city bus grabs my "pussy" and smiles at me, I'm 12.
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) October 7, 2016
Oxford received 10s of millions of stories in response.
women have tweeted me sexual assault stories for 14 hours straight. Minimum 50 per minute. harrowing. do not ignore. #notokay
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) October 8, 2016
Following the election of Trump on Nov. 8, survivors and survivor advocates once again took to social media to express their thoughts. Some spoke directly to Oxford; others simply messaged their peer groups.
@kellyoxford How, as a survivor of sexual assualt, am I supposed to look at that man on TV and in print everyday for a minimum of 4 years?
— FromHopetoNope (@KimberlyAGem) November 9, 2016
as a survivor of sexual assault, today is hard.
— miel (@miel) November 9, 2016
As a survivor of sexual assault, I'm so sorry to the survivors who may wake up to their assaulter as president. I'm sorry we failed you.
— nasty women (@meckman13) November 9, 2016
A man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women is about to become president. As a survivor of sexual assault, I am devastated.
— Claudia (@claudi__a) November 9, 2016
For many, the election of Trump given the accusations of sexual violence he faces — including a lawsuit dropped just last week by a woman who alleges that she was raped by Trump at the age of 13, saying the death threats she received after filing her suit made her too fearful to proceed with her case — was a triggering experience.
I am devastated that I am a sexual assault survivor and my next president could be just like the guy that made me cringe around men.
— liz (@allthefabthings) November 9, 2016
endless love for every other scared marginalized person and sexual assault survivor out there scared as shit right now.
— dismay princess (@UnburntWitch) November 9, 2016
There are so many reasons to be terrified right now, but personally, I am afraid as a survivor of domestic abuse & sexual assault.
— Sarah Galo (@SarahEvonne) November 9, 2016
Lisa Bloom, the attorney representing many of the women who have come forward with accusations against the man who will be America’s next president, was one of those people. She echoed the thoughts of others on Twitter who lamented that a man who bragged about assault received so much support.
A major blow to feminism. We elected man whose most consistent life’s work was demeaning women, who bragged about sexual assault.
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) November 9, 2016
i have to sit here as a sexual assault survivor and watch a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women get this much support
— br*dget (@b_murphs0531) November 9, 2016
Finally, sexual assault support organizations were quick to offer support on social media, telling their social media followers to check in with survivors they care for.
— Chicago Taskforce (@chitaskforce) November 9, 2016
— End Rape on Campus (@endrapeoncampus) November 9, 2016
Survivors: we believe you, we fight with you, and we continue our work tomorrow.
— Know Your IX (@knowyourIX) November 9, 2016
This presidential race opened a new chapter on dialogue about sexual assault and gender-based violence, prompting many women who had never before spoken of their experiences to come forward. Millions of women shared their stories to the #NotOkay hashtag across social media. And in an article titled “She Never Spoke of It to Her Husband. Then She Heard the Trump Tape,” the New York Times interviewed many women who felt empowered by the Trump tapes to share experiences they had previously buried — prompting their male partners to, as the Times put it, “see how gender could shield them from needing to defensively palm their keys as they walk to a car, from being trailed home by a stranger, from having co-workers rate their bodies.”
“Many survivors have been traumatized by the recent national discourse surrounding sexual assault,” Terri Poore, policy director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, told International Business Times in an interview about how this presidential campaign has empowered sexual assault survivors. “At the same time, there’s a recognition of strength in numbers, as well as support and empowerment for women sharing their own experiences. There’s a certain extent to which this election has caused a general shift in the public’s understanding of sexual assault.”
Of course, much of this was written before Trump won the presidency. It remains to be seen how this conversation will continue.
Anyone impacted by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 800/656-HOPE (4673). You can also visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat.