So while I was covering the “Make America Great Again” rally in Southaven Tuesday night, Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer was a couple of hours further south in Greenville, campaigning for Democratic Senatorial candidate Mike Espy. And whle driving that lonely stretch of U.S. 61, she listened to Trump’s remarks.
What she heard was so appalling to her that it inspired her to write a commentary that’s live on CNN.com right now. An excerpt:
Trump’s taunts of Professor Ford, and the cheers they elicited in the arena where the rally was held, set a precedent that further emboldens rape culture in our country. It was clear that Trump’s only concern is for the life of the man accused by more than one woman of sexual assault or misconduct and not for the women who have lived with the trauma of being assaulted. Judge Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him. As I drove, I could only think of the young women and the children who would hear the President’s words and how their own voices would be muted by his lack of empathy and the bravado with which he sought to disempower his own accusers and those of Kavanaugh.
That our President said and did these things is a national disgrace, but that he did so in Mississippi and just outside Memphis is especially appalling. According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, 14% of high school girls in Mississippi reported being forced to have sex against their will, higher than reported data nationally. Sunflower County, near where I was when Donald Trump was speaking, is part of the Mississippi Delta, the poorest part of the state. If a young girl in Sunflower County is sexually assaulted, her options for mental health care and reproductive health care are severely limited.
If that same girl’s attacker impregnates her and she wants to terminate that pregnancy, she would have to find the resources to travel to the one abortion provider in the entire state in Jackson, the state capital. Southaven, where Trump spoke Tuesday night, is a more affluent part of the state, nearly 200 miles away, but there are still limited services for reproductive health care and sexual trauma recovery there, as well. By treating sexual assault survivors like fodder for a late-night TV monologue, Trump is blowing out a light of hope for many in a state where recovery options are far too few.
In the spirit of disclosure, I should point out that while Trump was campaigning for GOP Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Sawyer was campaigning for Espy, one of Hyde-Smith’s opponents.