The first time I was sexually assaulted I was nine-years old. That’s right, nine. To really put that into perspective (as if any should be required) here’s what I looked like at that age. Undeniably sexy, right? Just look at those bangs. Who could resist?
This isn’t something I expected to discuss publicly. Ever. Most people who have known me my whole life don’t know. But in light of current events I can no longer in good conscience remain quiet about something I’ve known to be an endemic cancer in our society for most of my life. Silence gives power to oppressors and I choose to shine the brightest light possible on their darkness of being.
I wish that I could claim to have an unusual or even unique story. At least that would imply that things like this don’t happen that often. But 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before they are 18, so unfortunately I am neither unique nor unusual.
But the first time it happened to me the perpetrator was a middle-aged man I was taught to trust. While holding me piggyback he fingered my pussy rather than grabbing it, but the sense of entitlement was identical to Trump’s. And he too got away with it. In fact, in my lifetime I have been sexually assaulted on four different continents and they have all gotten away with it.
But you want to know what happened when I told an adult about the first time? I was asked what the circumstances surrounding the “alleged” events were. What was not-so-subtly implied was: How could this be diminished? Brushed aside? How could it be turned into some sort of innocent mistake?
And before anyone reading this gets indignant on my behalf, let me remind you that this is the standard we have set. Look at Bill Cosby. Brock Turner. R Kelly. Mike Tyson. Woody Allen. Roman Polanski. Donald Trump. As a society our kneejerk reaction to all women (and girls) who claim sexual harassment/assault/abuse/rape is to be appalled by the accusation. To assert these men are innocent until proven guilty. To ask what was she wearing? Why did she go back to his hotel room? Had she been drinking? Why didn’t she come forward sooner? She probably just made it up to get publicity or a payoff. As a society our first reaction is to find a way to blame it on her.
So no, I wasn’t believed. I wasn’t protected. But let’s not pretend that being believed and protected is the norm. When 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail, is it really fair to pretend that it’s a crime we deem worthy of serious consequence?
I started this year by Breaking up with the Patriarchy. It’s been a big couple of years for me in terms of facing my own personal demons and learning to reclaim power over my own life and body. My introduction to sex taught me that pleasure, particularly my own, was something to be ashamed of. Healing has been an arduous task that, at times, has completely overwhelmed me. But I am at a point in my life where I can no longer move forward carrying this weight on my back. I need to be free. And just when I’d started to see the world a little differently—to acknowledge the many good and decent men in my life—Trump comes along and unearths the worst of our humanity, reminding me that my fears were always well-founded. That not only are too many men able and willing to treat women as objects rather than humans, but that plenty of people will come out to defend their right to do so.
I dream of a day when our Presidential election will be about policy issues again. When we can engage in civil discourse. But let’s not pretend that this election is about issues. There is only one issue. Are you pro-humanity or not? It doesn’t matter where you stand on any political issue in this election. The current GOP contender has already discussed the size of his penis, bragged about committing sexual assault and offended women, Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, immigrants, the disabled, and POWs. He has advocated committing war crimes, praised foreign dictators, called global warming a hoax concocted by the Chinese, and dodged paying his own taxes. Under no circumstances can this be considered an election of policy issues.
I understand that many of you may not care for (or even hate) Hillary Clinton. Maybe you loved Bernie. Maybe you loved someone else. They didn’t get the nomination and it’s disappointing that you don’t have your ideal candidate to vote for. I get it. It’s a scary time in the world right now and we need a leader who can navigate through a quickly changing and globalizing world. Whatever your political leanings, I too wish that you were able to choose between ideal candidates.
The current choices may not meet your ideals, but it is also not “the lesser of two evils.” Whatever you think about Hillary Clinton she is arguably the most qualified human to ever run for President in our lifetime. She has a multi-decade long history of advocating for women, children, the disabled, the poor, veterans and minorities. Is it a perfect record? Of course not. She believes the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is a real and significant threat to humanity. And to put her in the same category of “evil” as Donald Trump is misguided at best and hateful at worst.
Yes, it would be great if we had a legitimately multi-party system so that more of our interests could be represented. But we don’t. Let’s mark this moment as the point in history when we work to find ways to represent everyone equally. But right now, the reality is that there are are two candidates with a chance to become the next President of the United States.
When I hear people praising Trump or saying they’d rather vote for him than Hillary I feel PTSD being triggered. My body tenses and I find it hard to take full breaths. It’s hard for me to focus on anything else because my body goes into a kind of survival mode. As it turns out, I’m not alone. This has become so common for so many people that thousands of therapists signed this manifesto naming Trumpism “as a threat to the well-being of the people we care for and to American democracy itself.”
A vote for Trump is a vote for the worst of humanity. If that offends you I recommend you take a long look in the mirror and think about what it is that you are allying yourself with. I am personally (and rightfully) offended by your stance. You are diminishing crimes. You do not believe victims. You do not believe your own ears. You are not concerned about my rights as either an American or a human. And worst of all, without acknowledging it, you don’t care about your own either. The only choice in this election is whether you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? It’s your choice. Whether you actively choose by voting or passively choose by denying the reality that you have a voice, you are still taking a stand. What do you stand for?