First, let’s be clear: The video that surfaced Friday of Donald Trump bragging about forcefully kissing and groping women describes not just blatant sexual assault, but a very specific kind—that which is inflicted by powerful men on the women who work in their proximity.
And yet, during the town hall-style presidential debate Sunday night, the candidates spent just a few paltry seconds discussing Trump’s lewd statements, and zero seconds on the toxic workplace environment that those comments condone. That’s a shame. And it’s a disservice to working women across the country.
There’s not a lot of reliable data on workplace sexual harassment and assault. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates there are about 43,000 workplace rapes and sexual assaults every year. But experts agree that on-the-job harassment and assault is vastly underreported. The AFL – CIO estimates that rape and sexual assault are reported to the police at the lowest percentage (24%) when compared to other violent crimes in the workplace—and that nearly half of all workplace crimes committed yearly aren’t reported to the police. In a 2012 HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 adults, 13% reported having been sexually harassed by a boss or another superior, and 19% reported being harassed by a coworker. Of those who said they’d been harassed, 70% said they never reported it.
Still, the issue gets scant attention on the campaign trail. For a 90-minute debate packed with insults, there was no mention of Trump’s long history of bad workplace behavior. A quick refresher: In May, the New York Times reported that more than 50 employees, pageant contestants, and acquaintances of Trump had been the target of alleged inappropriate or unwanted advances from the Republican candidate. Last year, the Times revealed that Trump once called his former lawyer Elizabeth Beck’s request to take a break to breast-pump “disgusting.” This is also a candidate who fat shames, habitually underpays his female staff, and “manterrupts” at an alarming rate (14 times in this debate alone!).
In such a contentious debate—and an election where the first female presidential nominee of a major party is running against a candidate marred by workplace malfeasance—women’s issues should have been a priority.
There was no mention of working women at all during the debate—or the gender wage gap, maternity leave, and Social Security questions they want answers to. More than ever, working women deserved a spotlight at Sunday’s town hall. They didn’t even get a seat.