LEWISTON, Maine (NECN/Danielle Waugh) — Donald Trump's 2005 comments captured on a hot mic about kissing and grabbing women without their consent have started a political firestorm, and a nationwide conversation about sexual assault.
"I think the events of this weekend have really opened up a lot of discourse," said Marty McIntyre, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services in Lewiston, Maine.
Trump answered questions about his 2005 comments, while accusing Hillary Clinton of intimidating victims of her husband's alleged sexual misconduct during Sunday's Presidential Debate.
McIntyre said hearing Trump's comments and watching the issue of sexual assault take front and center in the debate has been both painful, and inspiring for victims of sexual assault.
"It absolutely does trigger memories and feelings among those who have been victims," she said.
It has also caused some women to publicly speak, sometimes for the first time, about their experiences with sexual assault.
The hashtag #notokay on Twitter is full of women writing about sexual assault, in hopes of sending the message that comments like Trump's are not acceptable.
"It helps survivors know that they're not alone," said McIntyre.
While Trump has called his comments nothing more than "locker room banter," McIntyre said words alone can do damage.
"It reinforces it, it makes it normalized," she said.
"Children are listening to this, and asking what it means, and asking if it's okay. I'm hoping this has spurred on some real strong conversations in families with children to help them understand that this kind of talk, whether it's true or not, creates an environment that doesn't take sexual assault seriously," said McIntyre.
She said anyone struggling to talk to their children about sexual assault can find resources at local sexual assault prevention organizations, such as the SAPRS in Maine. A statewide crisis hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-871-7741.
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