Dear Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and CNMI Republican Party chair James Ada: Hafa adai and Tirow. On behalf of the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, its board of directors, membership, and constituents, we are writing to request that the CNMI Republican Party rescind its endorsement of Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States of America.
While we as a community-based, anti-violence organization choose not to be associated with any political party, we must voice how strongly we feel that leaders, local and national, should honor the dignity of all its citizens, particularly those who are most vulnerable to violence and abuse. We believe that leaders must uphold the values that are true to the culture of its people and allow for safety to flourish in their communities. We also believe that our leaders must demand these values from those they align themselves with—else they cannot demand them of their people.
We are concerned that aligning ourselves with Mr. Trump reflects a blatant disregard for the experiences of victims of sexual assault in the CNMI. No benefit from maintaining this endorsement can be so great as to risk this.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump has revealed his propensity toward sexually predatory behavior, not only his use of language that condones and normalizes sexual assault but in the inappropriate ways he has talked about his own daughter and in the way he boasted about sexually assaulting women. Mr. Trump’s behavior is especially dangerous and harmful because he yields incredible power and influence. This power and influence has allowed him to share his attitude all over the globe—impacting the way people treat each other and triggering survivors of sexual assault.
After decades of studying sexual violence, experts have come to understand that the cycle of sexual violence—the way sexual violence is perpetuated from one generation to the next—lies partly in the way it is normalized, minimized, and even glorified. This happens when people, intentionally or unintentionally, joke about rape, normalize male sexual aggression as “locker room talk,” demean girls and women, blame victims for their behavior and so on. It follows then that Mr. Trump’s thoughts, language, and behavior are certainly contributing to the cycle of sexual violence. But we know that you understand this.
In the statement released by the CNMI Republican Party following the media coverage on the remarks made by Mr. Trump in 2005 where he boasted about sexually assaulting women, you called his remarks “distasteful” and “disrespectful.” The Party further stated that it was “…unconditionally committed to stopping sexual harassment/violence in all forms.” An unconditional commitment means that one’s commitment is absolute and without conditions. It also means that “stopping sexual harassment/violence in all forms” is an unequivocal priority for the CNMI Republican Party and for our current administration.
Therefore, we ask that the CNMI Republican Party, under the leadership of our governor, honors its stated unconditional commitment and withdraw its endorsement of Mr. Trump. We believe it is the right thing to do in recognizing the need to hold perpetrators accountable and reaffirm the trauma experienced by victims of sexual violence.
The CNMI Republican Party’s endorsement of Mr. Trump is harmful for our community. Currently, survivors of violence and abuse in our community feel like those in power either do not see their pain and suffering, or see it but do not care. Recent high-profile cases, including a top law enforcement official admitting to have sex with a minor (he denies knowing she was a minor) and irresponsible rhetoric from the judicial bench that declared teenagers who do not consent to sex have no legal recourse (this order was overturned), have left many in our community, especially survivors of sexual assault, feeling like there is no hope. When events such as these occur, survivors are silenced. These events give survivors a sense that being violated and humiliated is a burden that they must bear alone. There is no recourse. There is no justice. There is no hope. These events tell survivors that despite their best efforts to seek truth and justice, their cries for help will not be heard by those who hold the power to make change.
How can the standard of living for anyone in the CNMI be improved if we continue to support those who have blatantly chosen to use their power to perpetuate sexual violence?
Gov. Torres and Chairman Ada, in order to stop “…sexual harassment/violence in all forms” we must be willing to stand up against those who perpetuate the belief systems that allow sexual violence to exist, people like Mr. Trump. We must work to shatter the idea that men in power can treat women and girls in any way they please, even if it is criminal. We must discredit the ideas that men who abuse and violate others will be rewarded, supported, and endorsed by other men in power.
In Gov. Torres’ remarks at the 2016 Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation signing ceremony, he called on the community to report violence when they see it. We are now calling on you to lead by example. Choose to stand with us. Choose to embody the values that we hold true as people. Choose to be a voice for all those silenced by sexual violence.
We strongly urge the CNMI Republican Party and the current administration to formally withdraw its endorsement of Mr. Donald Trump.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (670) 234-3878 should you have any questions or for further discussion.
Tenorio is the executive director of the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence,while Arriola is chairperson of its board of directors.