on post-election pain

I remember receiving the news of Trump's win in the presidential election in 2016. Actually, that’s a lie. I don't remember the minute details that many as some others seem to. I know I went to work; I don't remember much else. But I will never forget how I felt. As a... person? victim? survivor? of sexual assault, it was a special kind of pain to watch this man carry through his campaign to such victory despite the abhorrent things he said about women, their bodies, and the lack of consent he showed on numerous occasion. It was devastating, but it was not surprising, which maybe made it all the more the devastating. Donald Trump demonstrated that a man can speak openly about assaulting women and still be seen as worthy of the highest seat in the American court system, one of the most powerful positions in the world. Living proof that the fate of women, the respect of women, and the voices of women do not hold a candle to a man with wealth -- be it financial or social.

Even at that time, I no longer needed this proven to me. I had watched situations like this one play out in my own life. I have never been particularly open about my assault, or the role sexual assault has played in my life, beyond the trust of my closest friends. But even with the few people who have been made aware of the incident, sides were chosen. I have been called crazy, a liar, an attention-whore. I have been ridiculed by people to whom I have never spoken. I have watched many others in a similar situation endure the same. Acknowledging the abuse I have experienced is one of the most harrowing parts of my life. Often when people come to the defense of those who have experienced sexual assault, they make a point of how awful an experience it is to speak up. Why would someone share their most shameful secret for attention? Why would someone lie about such a horrible thing? Why would anyone ask to have the most private parts of their life dissected? Well let me tell you… it is awful. Talking about my assault is gutting. It does not make me feel empowered, at least not yet. I still have much of the same shame I felt at 17, or 20, or 25, but have become better at managing it. Experiencing abuse or trauma like this becomes weaved into the DNA. And that is not to say that it makes someone worse, or less than, for having experienced it. That is simply not true. But it does change us. There are so many parts of me, from mindsets to moments, that have been defined either consciously or subconsciously by my assault. I think about it every day. When I am contextualizing myself and my capacity for romantic love, friendship, sex, future goals... it is always there. Even on my best days, that 17-year-old girl is still there. But I am reaching a point now where I can separate enough of myself from her in a healthy way. I can sit myself across from her and look at her like a parent might, with warmth and compassion and concern. It has taken a lot of work to get here, and I know we will always look through the same eyes and feel with the same hands. She is an important part of me, but I am learning to take back control.

And today, on November 4th 2020, I watch yet another presidential race with Donald Trump as a contender. He is not in the lead, but he is close. He is very close. I am sickened by those that still find him electable. His rap sheet of disgrace has grown exponentially over the last four years but still I am brought back to that same pain. The way he speaks about women, about anyone who is unlike him, was not enough to stop this train. My heart aches for all of us who have worked to be strong, for all of us who still have our former selves inside. These selves of a different lifetime are watching this unfold with us.  I wish I had more to help stop their pain, too.