It is very rare that a fellow woman becomes the subject of our disappointment here on Shevolution, but we can’t help but be utterly repulsed by the comments made by Paris Hilton dismissing sexual assault claims made against current US President Donald Trump.
The vacuous bleached-blonde caricature of rich, white privilege burst onto our TV screens in the 00s with ‘The Simple Life’. In it, the two wealthy offsprings of multi-millionaires attempted – and failed – to try their hand at numerous careers non-rich Americans are forced to take up in lieu of daddy’s credit card. A pre-cursor of the Kardashians, it encouraged a generation of girls to carry handbag dogs swathed in pink while uttering the phrase “That’s hot” with slack-jawed nonchalance. It also became a lesson in how wealthy and blonde and thin a woman had to be to get away with almost anything the gossip columnists could haul her over the coals about. From sex tapes, to recordings of homophobic rants branding gay men “disgusting”, you name it, Paris Hilton seems to have gotten away with it.
Well, not this time. We’re washing our hands of the star, after she dismissed Trump’s 2004 “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments as nothing than laddish banter, and branding those who bravely came forward to make allegations of sexual assault against the President.
“I feel like a lot of people, when something happens all these opportunists will come out,” Paris told US Marie Claire. “They want to get money or get paid not to say anything or get a settlement when nothing really happened. So I don’t believe any of that.”
She then went on to insinuate that the claimants intended to seduce the President.
“I’m sure they were trying to be with him too,” she said. “Because a lot of women, I’ve seen, like him because he’s wealthy and he’s charming and he’s good-looking so I feel like a lot of these girls just made the story up.”
Now, Paris didn’t vote for Trump in the US General Election, but not because of his stance on immigration, his jingoistic Twitter rants and puffed up nationalist bravado. She just didn’t vote.
But if she could be bothered to engage in the democratic process, she probably would have done. As an heiress to the Hilton hotel fortune, her family moved in the same grotesquely wealthy circles as Trump.
She praised her memory of him thusly: “I’ve known him since I was a little girl. And he’s always been so nice, so respectful and sweet.”
She also spoke about the President’s confession in 2003 that he’d watched Paris Hilton’s sex tape in a radio interview with Howard Stern.
Hilton recently described feeling “depressed and humiliated” after the leak of the tape. The revelation that dodgy Uncle Trump had watched it and then drooled over it live on air? Not so much.
“Anyone that’s on [the Howard Stern] show, Howard just loves to say weird things and people say things that they normally wouldn’t say,” she said. “It wasn’t creepy at all. [Trump’s] not like that at all, he’s always been so respectful.”
She goes on to describe herself as a “feminist” who is apparently all for female empowerment. However, we’re not sure there is anything sisterly about dismissing claims of sexual assault made by scores of women as bogus.
Rather than asking what they have to gain for making the claim, we should instead think carefully about what survivors risk losing. We can speak from some experience, albeit with the British legal system, to say that the unbelievable stress, isolation, humiliation, and psychological impact of deciding to take an attacker to court can only be fuelled by a burning sense of injustice. It is simply too hard to do see it through for any other reason.
One of the biggest problems survivors have in coming forward as victims of sexual assault in the first place is the niggling, nauseating doubt that they will not be believed. That they will be laughed out of the police station, or worse yet, accused themselves of a crime they most certainly didn’t commit. Dismissive statements about public cases, like those made by Paris Hilton, do nothing to alleviate this problem. Through sheer ignorance, and lack of thought, they escalate it. They are dangerous and stupid and should be ignored.
“False allegations of rape are very rare,” Rape Crisis England and Wales states on its website. “The vast majority of survivors choose not to report to the police. One significant reason for this is the fear of not being believed. It’s really important we challenge this myth so those who’ve experienced sexual violence can get the support and justice they need and deserve.”
“At Solace we know just how vital it is that survivors of sexual violence are believed,” Alex Seipel, a spokesperson at Solace Women’s Aid north London, a front line service aiding survivors of rape and domestic violence, tells Shevolution. “In London alone, 11 women are raped every week in every borough and we support 100s of women through our Rape Crisis service each year. Countless women tell us that picking up the phone and speaking to someone who ‘just gets it’ and believes them can be life-saving.
“Only a small proportion of sexual violence survivors will ever report to the police and the fear of not being believed is a major reason why they are reluctant to engage with the criminal justice system. The widespread myth that false reporting is common and that women routinely lie about being raped fuels these fears. In fact, research shows that the true figure of false reporting is just 3%. We must speak up and continue to challenge the view that women vindictively and perpetually lie about rape and work to ensure all survivors get access to the support and justice they deserve.”
The best and most feminist thing Paris Hilton could do for now on? Stop talking, get some serious education, and do not darken our feminist sidebars again until you have something constructive to contribute.