By Spencer Rumsey and Christopher Twarowski
A campaign rally on Long Island for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump abruptly shut down a refuge center for victims of domestic and sexual abuse Wednesday, sparking outrage among victim advocates and adding to concerns about his problematic image with women voters.
Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul-turned reality TV star and GOP presidential hopeful, made a campaign stop at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, NY, to drum up support in advance of the state’s primary on April 19, attracting thousands of supporters and protestors and prompting road closures in the vicinity.
The Safe Center LI, located on Grumman Road, was one of those locations shut down to make way for Trump’s rally. It offers cost-free, confidential services to victims of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic and dating violence, as well as child abuse. Among these: a 24-hour hotline, child advocacy, crisis intervention, emergency counseling, transitional housing, and “safe home” services.
With a stated mission “To protect, assist and empower victims of family violence and sexual assault while challenging and changing social systems that tolerate and perpetuate abuse,” The Safe Center LI services more than 1,000 victims annually.
“Due to the Donald Trump rally being held at Grumman Studios today, our center will unfortunately be closed to the public after 1 p.m.,” it announced on its Facebook page Wednesday at around noon. “Walk-in emergency appointments, regular appointments, and deliveries will not be able to access The Safe Center due to the road closure. We will resume full services at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. Thanks for your cooperation. If you have an emergency, please call our 24-Hour Hotline at 516-542-0404, or 911.”
Maurice Moe Mitchell, state director at New York Civic Engagement Table responded below the posting: “This is outrageous.”
“Donald Trump, making Long Island a less safe place for everyone,” added another poster.
Trump has been no stranger to criticism regarding his rhetoric and his attitude toward women.
For years he’s had a very public feud with actress Rosie O’Donnell, which became a subject of now-infamous inquiries about his misogyny made by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly during the first Republican presidential debate, televised live in August last year.
“You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” said Kelly.
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump replied, to laughter and applause from the audience, and he followed up that night with a series of tweets and subsequent remarks that furthered their own feud.
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” he told CNN about her questioning—his campaign later insisting that he stated “whatever.”
Trump, who’s in a tight race with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for the GOP’s nomination, recently attacked Cruz’s wife, Heidi, threatening “to spill the beans” on her, after a SuperPAC supporting the Texas Republican had run a provocative nude photo of Trump’s third wife, Melania, taken in 2000 for a British GQ photo shoot with the headline: “Meet Melania Trump. Your Next First Lady.”
Trump followed that up with a retweet of an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz next to a flattering photo of his supermodel wife, with the words: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Recently, the real estate billionaire made waves again when he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at a town hall event that “there has to be some form of punishment” for a woman who got an abortion if it were made illegal. Later, he tried to retract that televised response by releasing a statement saying that doctors who perform abortions, not women, should be “held legally responsible.” For good measure, Trump added, “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”
Nationwide, Trump’s appeal among women voters is weak, at barely 42 percent, and declining. According to Wisconsin exit polls of primary voters, Trump only got 34 percent of female voters, despite having Melania try to shore up his support by giving her first campaign stump speech in Milwaukee.
“I’m very proud of him,” she said.
Requests for comment from the Trump “Make America Great Again” presidential campaign about the rape crisis center closure were not returned as of press time. Nor were attempts to reach The Safe Center LI.
A Nassau County Police spokesperson told a Press reporter that the office had no knowledge of The Safe Center LI, or any other local businesses, being adversely impacted by the road closures until notified by the Press, nor knew of any protocol in place to accommodate sexual abuse victims looking for help.
The spokesperson suggested any victims seek medical attention at an ER, instead.