Why People Are Defending Trump’s Sexual Assaults & How To Respond
It should be easy to conclude that, if a person who has been verified and documented admitting in a candid conversation that he enjoys sexually assaulting women and those women come forward validating that sexual assaults took place, that there would not be those that would defend such actions or deny them. Yet, there are those, even women, who are not only defending Donald Trump, despite these revelations, but blaming the victims with accusations of lying, attention seeking and even gold digging.
So, why would people deny something of this magnitude with this much evidence? Why would women in particular who hear of sexual assault allegations still stand up for a sexual predator? The answer is in how we identify ourselves.
The Political & Religious Identity Connection
In politics and religion, people have a tendency to value what they perceive as their identity in many cases over anything else as they feel it represents and defines them. Labels people attach to identify themselves are often religious or political such as- I am a... Christian, Buddhist, Conservative, Liberal, Republican, Democrat, etc. Those people and things that represent these types of labels are also extensions of how people identify themselves. When things go awry people have a natural tendency to excuse or defend those things that challenge their label which is part of their identity because it has become a personal extension of themselves.
When someone attaches themselves to a label of what they perceive as their identity they will defend that label, especially when something that represents their identifying label is attacked. What is most amazing is that they will defend it through rationalizations even if factual and truthful information conflicts with what they want to be true. In fact, people of all political and religious backgrounds tend to defend the group that they identify with even if evidence comes to light that shows they are defending something that directly conflicts or violates their own best interests. It was quite evident when for a long time no one believed that a Catholic priest could have been guilty of sexual abuse. Despite facts, many victims that came forward, and even physical proof there were not only people that denied it was happening but actually covered it up. Why would seemingly good people do that?
Using arguments to strengthen the labels we have to identify ourselves with is quite common. For example, it is why people who identify themselves as conservatives have in many cases been outraged at transgender people wanting to use the bathroom that they identify as their true gender. It is because conservatives who are often known to be against rights for the LGBT+ community is an issue that helps validate their identity. They rationalize their beliefs around the irrational fear of sexual assault, abuse, and rape to further argue this belief in order to validate their identifier as a conservative.
It should be easy to see that if there are no cases of transgender people actually committing sexual assault in women’s bathrooms then it is not something to be concerned about and this is a silly argument. Yet you have people who feel their very identity as a conservative is being challenged by LGBT+ equality so despite it being illogical and in the face of respect and empathy for other human beings, people will choose their political and religious affiliations by using rationalizations to defend what they see as their personal identity.
Yet when a real sexual assault occurs to multiple women and it is validated on record by the actual perpetrator, as is the case with Donald Trump, it is difficult to understand logically how one could refute it.
That is why it is easy to understand this type of denial when you look at the importance of identifying labels with political and religious affiliations that people will always passionately defend. Because supporting someone who commits sexual assault directly conflicts with how conservatives identify themselves, they will naturally refute it; not because it is not true, but because it threatens to challenge their personal identity label.
If examining this with logic it is easy to see that the two arguments conservatives use in these arguments actually contradict sexual assault concerns. Yet this is what is happening on a massive scale right now with Trump supporters who keep denying that factual information verified on tape by Trump himself is not real.
Please understand, this is not to say that this irrational thinking is only something conservatives do, rather, it is done by all people of all political and religious affiliations as well as other strong labels and identifiers. It is why so many people are so passionate about defending leaders and their actions good or bad because those leaders represent the very identity they have aligned themselves with and bad behavior challenges that image. People don’t like to have what they hold up as a symbol of their identity challenged as is evident with some of the irrational arguments made with regard to political and religious debates. Yet is a problem that keeps us struggling to make progress on important issues that affect us all.
So How Do We Respond To Denial, False Information & Accusations?
The best way to approach someone who is irrationally defending an issue that challenges their political or religious beliefs is as follows-
- Show respect through your responses. No one will listen to you when you are disrespectful. This is true even if they are being disrespectful. Be sincere and avoid cheap shots as you are worth protecting and maintaining your character and dignity.
- Use controlled passion in your responses with a calm approach. This shows that you are comfortable in yourself and in your beliefs but also allows you to remain approachable and keep others feeling comfortable in engaging with you.
- Don’t get sucked into being defensive, rather, firmly hold your ground with factual information. Modeling yourself as someone who is strong, calm and in control is far more powerful than someone who is emotionally weak, angry and someone who has lost control of their emotions.
- A useful tool is to ask rhetorical questions such as “Isn’t it always a good idea to hear out what a victim is saying before drawing conclusions?”
- Use true stories to help build effective points so that people can emotionally identify with those.
- Understand that there will be some people who are so threatened by their identifying labels being challenged that they will attack you or put their head in the sand and refuse to listen. It is not your responsibility to change the mind of everyone, but simply to try and reach those that you can.
- Avoid negating another person’s claims as it only enforces the language they are choosing to use. Rather, re-frame what you are saying by stating the true facts and show that they do not actually contradict the values of the person with who you are speaking.
- Don’t bother answering a question from someone who is asking a sabotaging question that is only intended as a set up to get you to admit that something is false to defend the symbols of their identity. Rather, re-frame your responses to fit your own values in a sincere manner.
- Always begin your responses by stating values that all of us can agree with such as security, freedom, and respect. Frame your thoughts with values that we all have and you can help others see the areas that we can agree upon and then move forward from there. Remember that your goal is to unite people based on values that show respect, equality, fairness and empowerment for all people.