If it wasn't rape, this House Republican doesn't want to hear about it: 'How traumatizing was it?'
Republican Rep. Jason Lewis is in a tough re-election fight, and this is probably not going to help him with women voters. Before he was elected to Congress, Lewis had a radio show—a radio show on which he commented extensively about sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain (remember him?) that came out during his Republican presidential primary run:
«I don't want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?» Lewis said. «How many women at some point in their life have a man come on to them, place their hand on their shoulder or maybe even their thigh, kiss them, and they would rather not have it happen, but is that really something that's going to be seared in your memory that you'll need therapy for?»
«You'll never get over? It was the most traumatizing experience? Come on! She wasn't raped,» Lewis added, using a voice mocking an emotionally distraught woman.
How many women? Pretty much all of them, jackass. And it’s true, it’s not always the most traumatizing, seared-in-your-memory experience. But when it is traumatizing, seared-in-your-memory stuff is when the hand on the thigh or the kiss comes from a boss, someone who can make or break a career or even just a woman’s ability to pay next month’s rent. When it is traumatizing, seared-in-your-memory stuff is when the hand on the thigh or the kiss seems like the prelude to rape, when it’s physically threatening and doesn’t seem like it will stop there.
That said, sexual harassment and sexual assault need not have been deeply traumatizing to be f*#king wrong. One of the things we’ve seen from the testimonies of the #MeToo movement is how many women’s careers have been derailed because they left a good job to get away from a predatory man—even if he didn’t rape them. Unfortunately, the Brett Kavanaugh saga showed us that Lewis is not outside the mainstream of his party, or at least its male elected officials. “Come on! She wasn’t raped” is a good translation of many Republican responses to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh, and if anything, these comments from Lewis are soft, because Ford was in therapy in part as a result of Kavanaugh’s assault and it still wasn’t meaningful enough for Republicans to acknowledge it as a real sign of trauma.
Even though Lewis’ comments from back then would have been standard Republican fare during the last couple months, he apparently realizes they may be a problem this time around, just weeks away from the election: when CNN asked his campaign for comment, the response it got was a letter threatening legal action if it posted the audio of his comments. (CNN posted the audio anyway. It's here.)
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