"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing," he said at a rally Sunday. "It's the greatest theft in the history of the world."
The "rape" he was referring was the trade deficit between the two countries, not an actual act of sexual assault. Advocates against sexual violence sharply criticized the Republican presidential front-runner's comments.
“When you use a violent and heinous crime like rape as a metaphor, it is an affront to all sexual assault survivors," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who introduced the International Violence Against Women Act and has campaigned vigorously to address rape on college campuses. "Donald Trump should find another way to express himself."
"Using the word 'rape' to describe anything other than sexual violence trivializes the experience of survivors," added Colleen Daly, a spokeswoman for the group End Rape on Campus. "The statement perpetuates our cultural indifference to rape and desensitizes us to all forms of sexual violence."
According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Justice, around 300,000 people are sexually assaulted every year.
Trump has spoken flippantly about rape before. After past allegations that Trump assaulted ex-wife Ivana resurfaced last year, his lawyer claimed that "you cannot rape your spouse." In reality, over half of all women who report being raped identify their partner as the attacker, data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
The former reality TV star, who last week accused Hillary Clinton of "playing the woman card," has been struggling to win the support of female voters. His comments about rape aren't likely to help.
"Whether it’s attacking women or minorities his vulgar remarks have no place in our political discourse," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said. "Women are watching and they don’t like what they see."