During this year’s campaign cycle, voters learned of sexual assault allegations against Republican Donald Trump and heard a years-old recording of him bragging about assaulting women. KUNM sat down with Jim Harvey, the new executive director at the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico, to talk about how Trump’s election impacts their work.
HARVEY: The mood here at the Rape Crisis Center has been all over the map in terms of reactions to the election from last week. One of the most prevailing questions that was asked was, What do we do? How do we continue to convey a message of hope when we’ve got a sexual predator for president now?
KUNM: What does that mean for people who work in this field? I mean I know you can’t speak for everyone …
HARVEY: Well, I think what it means for any of us is that we have to sharpen our message but we also have to strengthen our resolve. The message doesn’t change. We’ve got to continue to convey that sense of empowerment and strength.
People who are victims or survivors of rape, we’ve got to continue to let them know that what has happened to them is not their fault. No. 2, we’ve got to let them know that we firmly believe and we know for a fact that it’s unacceptable. And that anybody that’s engaged in sexual assault, in fact, needs to be met with the full force of justice.
KUNM: So has your hotline been receiving calls from people who are re-traumatized by the election?
HARVEY: Every day our hotline receives calls and, yes, the number of calls has increased considerably. People who are victims, people who are families of victims, and especially young people have begun to ask those questions. You know, what does all this mean? Where does this leave me? What am I in store for? Who will protect me? Is there anybody that will protect me at all now? And those are legitimate questions.
We’re here. We’re here to fight for you. We’re here to make certain that any resources that are out here and available will be delivered to you for your protection and your support. We’re not going to let anything get in the way of that.
KUNM: Do you have concerns that by electing someone who was recorded bragging about grabbing women’s genitals and who’s been accused of sexual assault, that this will exacerbate a culture that’s already kind of permissive of violence against women and sexual assault?
HARVEY: Well certainly. That’s a huge problem. And unfortunately, there are a lot of men out here who feel the same way, that they can do what they want and get away with it. The message that’s being delivered at this point is a really a very dangerous message, because what it’s done is it has encouraged people to feel more empowered to do the kinds of things that they do to women, to look at women in this “less than” kind of situation and move forward, take advantage of them, assault them. That cannot be tolerated.
KUNM: Do you think Trump’s election is factoring into decisions that survivors have to make about whether they’re going to come forward about what’s happened to them?
HARVEY: That is at the center of this whole issue in terms of the kind of message that his election has sent. If the man at the top, if the man at the head of our government is going to be allowed to get away with this kind of behavior with no kinds of consequences whatsoever, then sure, women in other situations around the country are going to be wondering, "What’s going to happen to me if I come forward?" And so again, we’ve got to do what we can to fight against that. Probably in some cases even change our direction or expand our direction so that we become a lot more involved in social justice. Because that’s what it’s going to come down to: social justice.