Donald Trump's gropes are a 'Ferguson moment' for women in the fight against sexual assault

Donald Trump's gropes are a 'Ferguson moment' for women in the fight against sexual assault
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va., in August. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

I want to thank Donald Trump for his candor. No, really.

He has done something amazing, albeit unwittingly, something no one else has been able to do. With his comments about women, he has inspired an overdue discussion about the regular and routine small "s" sexual assault that American women have endured since, well, forever. The unwanted touch on the train, the roving hand of a family friend, the aggressive come-on from strangers.


Trump might not appreciate his part in this important moment, just as the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., couldn’t have known his shot would be the one that finally forced a national reckoning of the killing of unarmed African American men by police. But one day in the history books, his picture may be next to the entry on “Objectification of Women in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries.”

The tape released last week in which the Republican presidential candidate boasted about putting the moves on women and grabbing their crotches didn't tell us anything new about a man who has a long history of creepy sexual remarks about his own daughter. But it was one grope too far. The floodgates holding back a river of repressed resentment by generations of women were flung open, drowning out Trump's excuses that this was just "locker room talk," folks. "Just words." Nothing to see here.

Now, women are coming out of the woodwork to tell their stories. One tweet by writer Kelly Oxford unleashed a torrent of responses from women recounting their own groping experiences. According to the New York Times, Oxford's Twitter page received 27 million visits by Monday. (Reading them brought back to me of a number of gropes, as well, that I had long forgotten about.) A Facebook post about a man ejected from an Alaskan Airlines flight Sunday for catcalling a flight attendant has gone viral.

It's not surprising that some of those stories that women are telling about old gropes feature Donald Trump. By Wednesday, a handful of women had come forward with stories about how he groped or fondled them.

I can almost sympathize with Trump's bewilderment at all the fuss. Until, like, just a minute ago, this kind of behavior was, if not OK, then certainly not a big deal. Wasn't Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed (by this newspaper, BTW) to be a serial groper right before he was elected governor of California? Wasn't Bill Clinton accused of worse things? Isn't that just what rich and powerful men do?

Besides, the women must be lying. At least, that is what Trump said Thursday in response to the mounting pile of sexual assault accusations. And as for that People magazine reporter who said Trump made sexual advances on her in 2005 while she was working on a story about Trump and third-wife Melania's first anniversary, well, "just look at her" Trump said, hinting that the reporter wasn't hot enough to hit on.

The Trump groping story is unfolding not unlike the Bill Cosby rape train wreck. After one woman came forward, it empowered more women to tell stories as well. There's power and cover in numbers. The criticism of the Trump accusers is similar to that leveled at the Cosby accusers: Why didn't they report this when it happened? Why did they wait so long to come forward? (Check out #whywomendon'treport for stories about why.)

They didn't tell their stories then because the public wasn't ready to listen.  It is now.

This story has legs, so to speak, not because, as Trump would have us believe, there's a media conspiracy to divert attention from Hillary's boring emails. (If there is, I didn't get the memo.) I think it's because we have reached a watershed moment, a Ferguson moment, if you will, for American women who are saying — finally — "Hell, no" to this demeaning and dehumanizing behavior toward women. And "Hell, no" to the idea of a commander-in-chief who thinks women should sit down and be quiet about such "locker room talk."

Thanks, Donald.

Follow me @marielgarzaLAT