When I was ten years old, I visited my best friend who had moved to another state some years ago. One night, we were sleeping in the living room and I woke up to see her father sitting next to me, staring at me. I instinctively knew I was in danger, so I shifted my body a bit so he would know I wasn’t asleep. It worked, and he left. I didn’t tell anyone. I was old enough to understand what had (almost) happened, but not old enough to know how to handle it. Many years later, he was arrested for molesting a young girl. I felt partly responsible – would that have happened if I had spoken up all those years ago?
In 1992, Donald Trump made the comment “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”. He said this about a 10 year girl. He sexualized a 10 year old girl.
When I was 12 years old, a friend and I were at the mall and an older man started following us while rubbing his genitals. We hid in a rack of clothes until he went away.
When I was 15 years old, I worked at a diner. The “regulars” (all old men) used to make comments about my breasts while I was working. I never said anything. I was too embarrassed.
At this same job, the owner’s father grabbed my ass once while we were really busy. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to get fired.
When I was 17 years old, I was at the movies with friends when a man in a business suit suddenly sat down next to me and started masturbating. He was probably counting on me being too scared to do anything, and while I was indeed terrified, I couldn’t just sit there and let that happen. So I stood up and loudly announced that I needed more soda, and the man ran away.
When I was 20 years old, I was at a party and an older man asked me to hold his baby for a minute. I obliged, and enjoyed entertaining the little guy. When I gave the baby back, I commented that he seemed to like me, and his father said “that’s probably because you have large breasts”. I was offended. I said something (not to him), but was told to drop it because this person had the power to shut down the party if he wanted to because of the underage drinkers in attendance. I don’t know who he was or why he had that power, but I did as I was told.
In the second presidential debate, Donald Trump denied ever touching a woman without their permission, despite the leaked tapes showing him bragging about doing exactly that. Here is a list of all the sexual assaults that he has been accused of.
When I was 20 years old, I was raped.
When I was 24, I got too drunk at a bar and my best friend caught some guy trying to get me to leave with him. I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t stopped me.
These are all the experiences I can remember. I don’t really have any recent examples (I’m 40) because I’ve formed quite the protective bubble around myself to minimize the risk (as I’m sure many other women have as well). I avoid being alone outside my house. When I walk to my car alone at night, I hold my keys in the way we (women) were taught in order to be able to jab a potential attacker in the eye. When I hike alone in the woods near my house, I have my phone ready to dial 911 when I see someone that gives me a bad vibe. Do you think I’m unique? I’m not. It is not some freak occurrence, or some rare oddity that caused me to spend my youth falling into these unfortunate situations. All women have these stories. ALL WOMEN.
This is the most time I’ve ever spent thinking about these incidents, and remembering how they made me feel. How scared I was. How “less than” I felt. How I felt like I had no voice. How I felt like my body was not my own. How simply having a vagina meant that these assaults were to be expected, because this is how men act.
I forget a lot about my childhood, but not these incidents. Never these incidents. They will stay with me forever. I can live with them, of course, and I am generally strong enough to keep these assaults out of the forefront of my brain. Donald Trump has really fucked that up for me. When I see him, hear his voice, read his words, all I can think is that he has made many women feel the same way I have. He has legitimized the practice of marginalizing women. He treats women as “less than”. Constantly. Practically as a rule. And somehow he has made it ok for millions of people to want to have that kind of man as president.
I wrote about my rape after Obama won in 2012 because I spent that election terrified that a GOP win would result in the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The “hot topic” that election cycle was old Republican men wanting to control women’s bodies. I wrote about the impact my rape would have had if I had gotten pregnant and was not allowed to get an abortion. I remember crying when Obama won because I was so relieved that women could remain “safe” (ha) for at least four more years. What’s happening with this election is infinitely worse.
I’m not voting for Hillary because I need for Donald Trump not to be president. I’m voting for her because I need for him to no longer be relevant. His constant presence is a reminder to me of how I rank as a human being in the eyes of many people in power, as well as to those that support Trump and those like him. While he’s still dominating the headlines, I won’t be able to forget the millions of people voting for him despite his truly horrific behavior. While he’s still the focal point of everything, children will be constantly exposed to these terrible words and acts that are suddenly acceptable to say and do because the leader of the free world says and does them.
To be clear, this behavior is unacceptable for any human being. If something like this came out about Bernie Sanders (the only politician I’ve ever given money to), he would not get my vote. Period. I don’t care about Trump’s policies. I don’t care if he would actually make a good president. None of that is more important than the marginalization of an entire gender.