Here is a shocking, uncomfortable thought. Donald Trump—as much as we hate to say it—has done the world just a little bit of good, even if he is the villain of the story. It’s difficult to think that anything positive could have happened following the release of Trump’s lewd NBC tape. After hearing the 2016 Republican runner talk about grabbing women by the genitals, kissing a woman without consent, and claiming that they let him because he’s a “star,” sexual assault has been in the forefront of American minds.
The 2005 recording, released by the Washington Post just before the second presidential debate, has haunted Trump’s campaign. After an attempt to dodge the scandal by claiming it was “locker room talk,” the tapes still remain at the forefront of the election discussion. While many are calling the tape scandal the final nail in the bizarre Trump campaign coffin, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
As disheartening as his comments may be, they have forced a national dialogue—one in which Americans have been forced to confront the systemic sexism that has been a constant undercurrent of American culture. But Trump’s prominence has set in place three crucial steps to broadening American understanding.
First, GOP leaders have abandoned the former “stick with the party” line. While initially doubtful over the bombastic, non-political, questionably Republican nominee, Republicans banded together after the Republican National Convention. However, now after braving several outrageous outbursts, Republicans are finally considering the sexist, aggressive comments from the ‘05 tape a step too far. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he was done defending Donald Trump and would instead focus on maintaining the House majority. Former Republican nominee Mitt Romney slammed Trump for his “vile degradations,” refusing to back the current nominee. Without the support of Republican leadership, Trump’s campaign is in even more peril than it was previous to the tape release.
Second, people are sharing their personal sexual assault stories, disturbed that a sexual harasser is running for the presidency. Actress Amber Tamblyn posted her personal story on Instagram, depicting her ex-boyfriend’s sexual assault. The last poignant sentence in her post: “Enjoy the debates tonight.” Author Kelly Oxford shared her story on Twitter, stating that an older man groped her when she was 12. She asked fellow survivors to share their story, prompting 1 million people to post their experience, utilizing the hashtag “NotOkay.”
Third, news stories about Donald Trump are rushing in. Women of all ages are sharing their Donald Trump assault stories. One woman reported that Trump inappropriately touched her while at a Manhattan nightclub. Another woman stated that Trump assaulted her on a plane. Another woman stated that Trump was inappropriate in the elevator. Reportedly, Donald Trump walked in on contestants while they were changing in the dressing room. Three women also remembered Trump walking into the dressing room, some as young as 15 years old.
The release of tax returns, controversial tapes and publication of women’s assault stories has caused Donald Trump to reach for his favorite defensive move: lawsuit. His actions have allowed us the opportunity to witness the New York Times saying what we were all hoping: “we welcome the opportunity to have the court set him straight.”