Politics

This One Tweet About Rape Culture Exposes the Problem with Mike Pence

October 10th 2016

By:
Danielle DeCourcey

A viral tweet about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's tape scandal reveals the bigger problem with rape culture and Trump's running mate.

The controversial sexually graphic conversation between Donald Trump and NBC's Billy Bush continues to attract backlash. The recording from 2005, obtained by The Washington Post and released last week, features Trump discussing "Entertainment Tonight" anchor Nancy O'Dell's breasts and talking about grabbing women "by the p*ussy."

donald-trump-and-woman

People have called Trump's comments about grabbing women's body parts a reference to sexual assault.

Although the American public and even leaders in the Republican Party say they're outraged at Trump's comments, one Tweet points out that Trump's running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence also embodies rape culture in a different way:

Tweet about rape culture and Donald Trump's comments.

Twitter user @HollettLA tweeted that Trump might be the "face of your rapist," but Pence is "every judge who made sure he got away with it."

The comparison touches on the difficulties sexual assault victims face in the legal system and how rape culture influences some judges. It also points to Pence's history of legislative actions that impact women.

The majority of people who commit sexual assault will never go to prison for it. About six out of 1,000 rapists will spend time in prison, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.

Chart shows how many people who commit sexual assault actually go to prison.

Some people directly compared Donald Trump and Mike Pence to the Brock Turner case.

Brock Turner, 21, infamously served three months of a six month sentence for sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster at Stanford University. Two graduate students discovered him and the victim in the middle of the assault. Judge Aaron Persky saw harsh backlash for the six month sentence, which was much lighter than the recommendation from the prosecutors; he eventually stepped down from hearing criminal cases.

brock-turner

The media conversation and character letters from friends and family during the trial focused on his talent as a Stanford swimmer and his lack of a violent criminal record.

In his decision to give Turner the lighter sentence, Persky focused partly on the fact that Turner was drunk when he committed the assault and much more on his previous "good behavior."

"What I am relying on to overcome – or at least consider probation in this case is Rule 4.413(c)(2)(C), which is where a defendant is youthful and has no significant record of prior criminal offenses."

Persky used Turner's lack of criminal record and character letters to avoid harsher punishment for Turner. However, victims of sexual assault are often forced to defend their background and character, and have their past used against them.

The metaphor of Pence as a judge who let a rapist get away has several layers to it.

mike-pence

Pence said Monday, days after the scandal broke, that he's standing by Trump, despite the fact that Trump's recorded comments about grabbing women "by the p*ssy" could reference sexual assault. Pence said that he does not condone or defend Trump's comments, but he's not rescinding his support either.

People on Twitter responded that Pence is supporting rape culture.

Beyond his continued support of Trump, Pence has a long history of supporting legislation that targets women's rights and supports antiquated ideas about women.

In 2011, when he was a member of Congress, Pence supported a bill that would redefine rape, to prevent more women from getting abortions. The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act" would have prevented federal funding from being used for abortions in cases of rape that didn't fit a definition of "forcible." The act could have excluded statutory rape and coercive rape and opened up a new definition of rape in the courts, according to The Washington Post.

In 1997, before serving in Congress, Pence wrote an opinion letter to the Indianapolis Star saying that working mothers are bad for children.

"Sure you can have it all, but your day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick," he wrote.

In 1999 Pence wrote that the Disney movie "Mulan" was "liberal propaganda,"according to BuzzFeed News.

“Despite her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan’s ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success on an equal basis with her cloddish cohorts,” wrote Pence, according to BuzzFeed. “Obviously, this is Walt Disney’s attempt to add childhood expectation to the cultural debate over the role of women in the military.”

Later in the letter Pence goes on to say that women shouldn't be in the military because they could have sex with men in the military. This is apparently unacceptable in Pence's view. A quote from BuzzFeed:

"You see, now stay with me on this, many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually. Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan. Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.”

As governor of Indiana, Pence supported extreme anti-abortion laws. He signed eight anti-abortion bills during his time as governor, according to Planned Parenthood. In March, he signed a law that would prevent women carrying a baby with Down syndrome or other genetic disorders from getting abortions. A federal judge blocked the law in June, saying it would illegally restrict women's constitutional rights.

Pence has also been a part of shaping Trump's abortion positions, which include an anti-abortion coalition and a push to defund Planned Parenthood, which would be particularly devastating to low-income women.

In September, Trump wrote a letter to anti-abortion conservatives outlining his campaign's position on abortion. He pledged to nominate anti-abortion U.S. Supreme Court Justices, extend the Hyde Amendment (which prevents federal funding from being used for abortions), and to defund Planned Parenthood.

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