Calls to sexual assault hotlines spiked following the release of the 2005 Trump tapes

That the flood of media coverage of Donald Trump boasting about sexual assault in 2005, along with a handful of women coming forward with allegations against the Republican nominee, has powerfully affected survivors of assault across the nation is no exaggeration. For abuse and rape victims, Trump’s words and alleged actions have inspired traumatic flashbacks and psychological conflict. And the dramatic spike in calls to sexual assault hotlines post-Trump tape speaks to this.

In the days following Oct. 7, a day that will forever live in infamy for the Trump campaign, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) saw a roughly 35 percent increase in calls to its telephone hotline. The very day after the 2005 tapes were leaked by The Washington Post, contact on the online chat hotline spiked by 33 percent, Slate reports. And RAINN Vice President Brian Pinero confirmed to NPR that the dramatic increase in contact among its sexual assault hotlines is absolutely related to the Trump scandal. Pinero told NPR that much of the traffic RAINN has been receiving comes from individuals who claim that recent Trump-related events spurred them to action.

Frankly, aside from the boost the Trump tape (and the allegations that came with it) have given his rival Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, most notably among young men according to a Monmouth poll released Tuesday, the tape has come with few benefits for sexual assault survivors and advocates.

What’s followed has been the sweeping dismissal of language condoning sexual assault as mere “locker room talk” from Trump and his surrogates, encouraging his many supporters to accept the normalization of rape culture in everyday language.

Additionally, the dozens of smear campaigns and hit jobs against the many women brave enough to come forward against Trump reinforce the attitudes that stop many victims from coming forward, only to be disbelieved, discredited, slandered, and abused for not having perfect backgrounds. Melania Trump herself, in a Monday interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, claimed we could tell the allegations were false by looking at “the backgrounds” of her husband’s accusers, as if a woman’s past or certain situations deny her all credibility.

But as data from RAINN indicates, perhaps there is some positive takeaway from this deplorable episode of the election season (and our nation’s history as a whole, really). At the very least, it appears the allegations have raised awareness about what sexual assault is — you know, since so many people have had to explain to Trump that grabbing a woman “by the pussy” without her consent is assault no matter how much money you have. And it’s clearly inspired a lot of people to want to become advocates, as they’ve expressed to RAINN in calls and online messaging.

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Virginia Beach
CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The bravery of accusers against Trump to come forward, probably fully aware of the disgusting, misogynistic backlash they would (and have) inevitably face, has perhaps inspired many abuse victims to call hotlines and figure out their options. Additionally, these women have helped shine a light on how pervasive different forms of sexual assault are; we can’t really solve a huge problem until we’re able to collectively recognize as a society that, yeah, it’s a huge problem.

That being said, there’s no denying that Trump’s words, alleged deeds, and rampant media coverage have struck a painful chord with many survivors, which could be another explanation of the dramatic increase in contact RAINN has been receiving on its hotlines. And yet, despite apologizing for what Trump refuses to recognize as anything more than “locker room” banter, he has yet to apologize, let alone acknowledge the many women and survivors everywhere that his words have hurt.