President Donald Trump, who has been publicly accused of sexual assault by more than 15 women and was caught on tape boasting he could grab women “by the pussy” without their consent, has officially proclaimed April 2017 to be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
In 2009, Barack Obama became the first president to officially proclaim April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, although activists had recognized the month as a time to boost awareness of sexual violence for several decades. Since 2009, a proclamation has been released each year by the White House. But 2017 brings us the first year that a president who has been accused of committing sexual assault has issued such a proclamation.
“At the heart of our country is the emphatic belief that every person has unique and infinite value,” reads the beginning of Trump’s statement. “We dedicate each April to raising awareness about sexual abuse and recommitting ourselves to fighting it. Women, children, and men have inherent dignity that should never be violated.”
The statement goes on to affirm a commitment to reducing and ending sexual violence, calling on all Americans “to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities.”
The Trump administration’s first Sexual Assault Awareness Month proclamation hits many of the same general notes that Obama’s statement did in 2016 ― with a few notable changes.
The 2017 proclamation removes any references to military sexual assault and adds a line on the importance of fighting “against the scourge of child pornography and its pernicious effects.”
Most strikingly, the proclamation removes almost all references to rape culture, though Trump does acknowledge that “research has demonstrated the effectiveness of changing social norms that accept or allow indifference to sexual violence.”
In its first paragraph, Obama’s 2016 statement called on Americans to “stand up and speak out to change the culture that questions the actions of victims, rather than those of their attackers,” later “reaffirm[ing] our commitment to shift the attitudes that allow sexual assault to go unanswered and unpunished.”
There are no such allusions to a culture of victim-blaming in Trump’s 2017 statement.
Trump is currently facing a defamation suit filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who has accused Trump of kissing and groping her without her consent in 2007, a year after she had appeared on his reality TV show.
Read Trump’s full proclamation below:
At the heart of our country is the emphatic belief that every person has unique and infinite value. We dedicate each April to raising awareness about sexual abuse and recommitting ourselves to fighting it. Women, children, and men have inherent dignity that should never be violated.
According to the Department of Justice, on average there are more than 300,000 instances of rape or other sexual assault that afflict our neighbors and loved ones every year. Behind these painful statistics are real people whose lives are profoundly affected, at times shattered, and who are invariably in need of our help, commitment, and protection.
As we recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to reduce and ultimately end sexual violence. As a Nation, we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes, including increasing awareness of the problem in our communities, creating systems that protect vulnerable groups, and sharing successful prevention strategies.
My Administration, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, will do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence. This includes supporting victims, preventing future abuse, and prosecuting offenders to the full extent of the law. I have already directed the Attorney General to create a task force on crime reduction and public safety. This task force will develop strategies to reduce crime and propose new legislation to fill gaps in existing laws.
Prevention means reducing the prevalence of sexual violence on our streets, in our homes, and in our schools and institutions. Recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of changing social norms that accept or allow indifference to sexual violence. This can be done by engaging young people to step in and provide peer leadership against condoning violence, and by mobilizing men and boys as allies in preventing sexual and relationship violence. Our families, schools, and communities must encourage respect for women and children, who are the vast majority of victims, and promote healthy personal relationships. We must never give up the fight against the scourge of child pornography and its pernicious effects on both direct victims and the broader culture. We recommit ourselves this month to establishing a culture of respect and appreciation for the dignity of every human being.
There is tremendous work to be done. Together, we can and must protect our loved ones, families, campuses, and communities from the devastating and pervasive effects of sexual assault. In the face of sexual violence, we must commit to providing meaningful support and services for victims and survivors in the United States and around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2017 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I urge all Americans, families, law enforcement, health care providers, community and faith-based organizations, and private organizations to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.