By Ashley O’Connor
For The Diamondback
It was hard for senior Alanna DeLeon to watch the presidential debates.
During the second match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, CNN’s Anderson Cooper pressed the Republican nominee about a leaked tape from 2005. In it, Trump brags about kissing women without their consent and grabbing “them by the pussy.”
“That is sexual assault,” Cooper said earlier this month. “You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”
That kind of discussion on a nationally televised political debate can be triggering for survivors of sexual assault, said DeLeon, president of the University of Maryland’s Preventing Sexual Assault group.
Triggers, she said, can be “anything — a smell, something you see — that reminds survivors of their experience and has a negative impact on them.”
“It forces them to relive that experience,” DeLeon said.
Some sexual assault survivors on the campus said they are frustrated with the rhetoric that’s become an integral part of the 2016 presidential election.
“The hardest part is that it’s inescapable,” said senior Hannah Stein, a survivor of sexual assault. “Even when I try to stay off of Twitter, I’ll go to class and we’ll listen to the tape and talk about it there.”
More than 10 women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual misconduct since The Washington Post broke the news of the tape in which Trump is heard discussing women in lewd terms with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. The allegations have since dominated headlines and newscasts.
Trump said the recorded conversation was just “locker room talk.” He has also denied the multiple women’s allegations of sexual assault.
“It’s horrifying for any person, especially a woman, and especially a sexual assault survivor, when two men of power are talking about women in that way and just laugh it off,” Stein said. “It’s horrifying.”
The tapes touched off online campaigns encouraging women to share their stories of sexual assault. Thousands of people tweeted in response to Kelly Oxford, who wrote: “Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me, I’m 12.”
After hearing Trump’s comments, Stein said it’s hard to grasp how some women in her family are still voting for Trump.
And though it’s hard to hear, PSA Events Coordinator Rachel Novick said the media attention surrounding Trump’s scandal could bring more awareness to the issue of sexual assault.
“I think it’s more in favor of making people want to do something about it,” said Novick, a senior physiology and neurobiology major. “It’s bringing about motivation to talk and help these people.”