Saturday 23 June 2018

Sex assault victims will be at State of the Union speech

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP

Ben Riley-Smith

The audience for Donald Trump's first State of the Union speech will include sex assault victims in the audience, and Democrats dressed in black, in a message of defiance against harassment.

Dozens of Democrat congresswomen will forgo bright colours in solidarity with the "me too" movement against misconduct, just as Hollywood stars did at the Golden Globes.

Women who have survived sexual attacks and campaigned to protect victims of misconduct will also be among the crowds, after being invited by Mr Trump's political opponents.

Abhorrent

Politicians taking part said that wearing black would demonstrate that "abhorrent behaviour" would not be tolerated.

The move will also throw a light on Mr Trump's past and the multiple claims of harassment he has faced - all denied - as he delivers one of his biggest speeches since taking office.

Tonight, Mr Trump will project a message of "unity" as he addresses both houses of Congress as well as supreme court judges and his own cabinet.

It is the biggest domestic speech of the year, mandated by the US constitution, which offers the president a chance to outline his agenda to a TV audience of tens of millions.

Each senator and representative can invite one guest, who sits in the public gallery.

In a protest of sorts, a number of Democratic congresswomen have invited people who have experienced sexual harassment first-hand to attend.

Ann Kuster, of New Hampshire, will bring Chessy Prout, a teenage survivor of sexual assault who shed her anonymity to show she was not ashamed of what happened, while Katherine Clark, of Massachusetts, has invited a cleaner, not yet named publicly, who was forced out of a job after complaining about persistent harassment at work. Other invitees include the niece of Recy Taylor, an African American woman raped by six white men in the 1940s, who never received justice, and women's rights campaigners.

Mr Trump faced more than a dozen claims of inappropriate sexual behaviour before the 2016 election but denied them all and refused to drop out.

He supported Roy Moore, who was accused of sexually assaulting young girls, in his bid for the Alabama Senate.

More than 30 Democrat congresswomen are expected to wear black. Men are also being urged to take part.

Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, confirmed she would wear black and said: "We must support the brave women across this country who are making their voices heard.

"The drumbeat of progress will not be silenced."

Meanwhile, Andrew McCabe, the FBI deputy director who Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised in public, has stepped down from the role.

Mr McCabe, who held the post since early 2016, will formally leave the FBI in mid-March when he becomes eligible for full retirement benefits.

The president has effectively accused him of political bias in the past, because Mr McCabe's wife ran for a Virginia senate seat as a Democrat candidate.

© Daily Telegraph London

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