For two years, I told no one. I saw no way to tell the story to the cops, or anyone else, without including my participation of sneaking out my bedroom window after curfew with the
hope of buying drugs.
The boy who raped me wasn’t seeking someone to destroy. Filled with shame and fear, I convinced myself that I all but unbuttoned for him.
So for two years, I blamed myself. For two years, I didn’t call it rape.
When I finally was able to admit it, the very first words out of the mouth of a person I thought should support me were, “Don’t tell anyone.” I had been quiet for two years, and I was being told to continue holding onto the silence that was chipping away at my self-worth. While my parents encouraged me to talk to a therapist, they reasoned that telling anyone besides a professional could harm the adult life I had only just begun. If I ever held a position in the public eye — particularly in the political arena — people would look down on me for it.
I was told that being raped would bar me from the respect of holding a position of authority. And in this last week, I can’t help but keep thinking: A man who has been accused of rape is our President-elect, and that didn’t seem to stand in his way one bit.
While that very short conversation with my parents took place over a decade ago, I can vividly remember the way my stomach sank. It confirmed all the fears I had that kept me silent for years — that others would blame me, judge me, disregard me. Even though I was the victim.
Through a journey of therapy, maintaining healthy relationships, empowering myself as a woman, and educating myself about sexual assault, I have learned from their mistake. I know now it was not my fault, just as it is never the fault of any victim. But too many people still give the side-eye when a victim comes forward, questioning every aspect of their story. They still get asked what they were wearing, what their sex life was like, how much they had to drink. They are still shamed.
This is the first presidential election in which I have been a parent. Our son turned one the day Trump was elected, and our second baby is due in March. I knew that my responsibility as a parent included teaching my children about consent and respect, but I never envisioned a world in which someone with so many allegations against them could have enough support to become my children’s president.
But it’s not only about the allegations — which I admit, have yet to be proven in a court of law.
It’s also about the the manner in which our President-elect has behaved in the face of these allegations.
Trump has openly bragged about his disrespect for women and laughed off his history of sexual assault. There’s no refuting that, either — it’s on tape. There isn’t a hint of shame in his voice when he is talking about disregarding the need for consent or asserting his power. And while many have wondered why some of the women who accused him didn’t step forward sooner, I would bet every penny in my son’s college fund that they were too afraid to come forward, and kept silent due to shame. I don’t have to imagine what it’s like to not get justice or compassion when finally breaking the silence; but I can’t possibly imagine just how low their hearts sank when they heard that the man who allegedly assaulted them would become our next president.
Politics aside, we need to teach our children that women’s bodies don’t exist for men’s pleasure.
We need to teach our children that a position of authority does not negate the need for consent.
We need to teach our children that sexual assault is wrong.
Our society should have been teaching that consent and respect are basic human rights from the beginning, but if this election proved nothing else, it’s that these are conversations we’ve avoided for far too long.
A lack of respect for women should never be shrugged off with a dismissive “locker room talk” excuse. We cannot agree that sexist words and actions are awful, but then choose to ignore them by giving them no weight. And that’s exactly what a vote for Trump proved to so many women of sexual assault, like myself — each and every vote cast his way told us we don’t matter.
Still, women may have lost this election, but I’m not ready to admit defeat for our children. Instead of cursing the next administration, I’m questioning how we teach our children to be good people, despite the example our leaders may set. I’m questioning how we show our daughters they are important and valued members of society. And at times, I’m questioning if my influence over my children is strong enough to overpower half of society’s influence on them.