The Washington Post released a stunning video on Friday that captured Donald Trump bragging about his sexual exploits in 2005. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women],” Trump said. “[I] just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The Post described the clip as an “extremely lewd conversation” about “kissing” and “groping,” framing the story as a shocking report about his vulgar language. Other outlets adopted this angle as well.
That is an odd way to frame this revelation, because what Trump describes in the recording is, quite literally, criminal sexual assault.
Sexual assault statutes vary state by state, and we don’t know where the alleged conduct occurred. But consider the sexual battery statute in California, where the conversation in question took place. Under that law, any person “who touches an intimate part of another person” for his own sexual gratification and without the victim’s consent has committed sexual battery. He is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment. Or consider the law in New York, where Trump lives. There, an individual is guilty of a sex offense if he “forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor's sexual desire.” A person found guilty of this sex offense risks imprisonment of up to one year. In Connecticut, where Trump long maintained a vacation home, the law is similar: An individual is guilty of sexual assault when he “subjects another person to sexual contact without such other person’s consent.” (“Sexual contact” need not even involve the touching of “bare skin.”) Again, an individual convicted of this form of sexual assault faces up to a year’s imprisonment.
Trump boasted of kissing women and touching their genitals without their consent. In much of the country, including those states in which Trump lives and works, that is sexual assault. And if he was telling the truth on tape, he could have been prosecuted and imprisoned for a considerable amount of time. That should be the story we discuss this weekend—not the acceptability of his “locker room banter.”