Tomorrow, finally, is election day. Our country has shown itself to be broken, divided, and ugly during this season. Women, in particular, find ourselves in a cloud of anxiety – anxiety triggered by a presidential candidate’s bragging about sexually assaulting women, by the multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, and by the enormous response of shaming, discrediting, and excusing by supporters who will go to no end to stand by their candidate.
Here’s the thing about sexual abuse and assault: it results in lifelong anxiety and shame that’s just under the surface, waiting to be triggered. The national conversation surrounding Trump’s blatant misogyny and abuse of women has been a trigger for countless women, myself included.
“She’s a pig.” “She wouldn’t be my first choice.” “They let you do whatever you want.” “Grab her by the pussy.” “Have you seen her?” “Such a nasty woman.” “She’s gross.”
We are not deaf to these things, and we are certainly not deaf to the rush of voices across the country shouting angrily that women are too sensitive, they’re liars, they’re attention whores and ungrateful hypocrites.
To the Trump supporters around me who think his disgusting statements about and his actions toward women are “no big deal” or that he respects women despite consistently and blatantly acting to the contrary, you may feel like your words, your excuses are as inconsequential as Trump’s are, I say bullshit. Those messages are dangerous, and I think it’s irresponsible at best to keep perpetuating the excuses.
Because what you’re saying to me when you don’t call out your candidate when he refers to his own daughter as a “nice piece of ass” is that it is ok that young women are shown by society that they do not really own but are still completely responsible for what happens to their bodies in the hands of men. When the boy I loved in high school abused me for three years and turned out to be a violent sociopath, these messages told me it was my fault for not getting away or seeing clearly from the inside what was going on. As if that is something any 17 year old is capable of.
When you say “all men act that way”, you are telling me that those times I was rubbed against on a dance floor in a bar, when I just wanted to dance with a local band, I should’ve been grateful. You’re saying that it’s fine that those testosterone and booze-filled college men who had to be told “I have a boyfriend” in order to leave me alone because “no thanks” isn’t legitimate but “a man has already claimed me” is, those boys are a norm that is completely ok with you.
When a lying, womanizing, not-good-enough-to-call-a-man I was involved with in college manipulated me and his other girlfriend to hide his cheating and make sure we were suspicious of eachother and of ourselves, defenses like those of Donald Trump told me I should just be ashamed and admit I was a slut. When that same man came to my apartment with the intention of doing things I wasn’t ok with, that I said no to and struggled against, those hateful attitudes told me I probably deserved to be pinned face down on my bedroom floor, raped, and made to act like nothing ever happened. And I never reported the assault because no way in hell was I going to put myself through the public crucifixion that happens to college rape victims in small towns.
So when you call Trump’s accusers ugly or liars, then cheer when he says he will sue his victims for coming forward, you’re telling me it is okay for a man to hold down a woman and take what he wants and, more importantly, that it’s dangerous to report such a violation because we all know women only report rape when they’re desperate.
I don’t want any sympathy or attention. Until today, I’ve kept my stories to myself to avoid re-victimization or questions, and only a few of my closest people know them. But then a presidential candidate triggered my anxiety and sent me into a tailspin. Thousands of women came forward bravely to share their assault stories, and thousands more men excused Trump’s behavior as if it was normal. As if we have no right to feel safe as long as we have the nerve to carry around these female bodies. As if we can’t be trusted with these bodies because we aren’t the ones who know what we really want. So I’m adding my voice to the growing national conversation running parallel to this destructive one. Because until we all tell our stories and get angry and stand up and build a community of support, the destructive conversation will be the only one people are listening to. We have to be louder.