“Grab ‘em by the pussy.”
As I type the words, my stomach churns and I feel ill. I’m immediately brought back to a time in my life I don’t dwell upon, yet is so much a part of me that I cannot deny it’s existence. I don’t want to write this, to share these words with complete strangers, but for my daughter’s sake... I have to.
I was 16 years old, a junior in high school, and an optimistic, happy soul. To this day, I remember EXACTLY what I was wearing. Blue jeans and a T-shirt. Nothing that would draw a lot of attention to myself, as that has never been my motive. Standing in a crowd of teenagers to purchase prom tickets, I waited patiently for my turn. It was chaos. No teachers or administrators overseeing the process, just a bunch of hormonal youngsters gathered around a card table with cash in hand desperately trying to purchase the piece of paper that would ensure their entrance to one of the biggest nights of their lives. There was a sense of tension in the air as the lunch period was ending, and there seemed to be more prom-goers than tickets.
Clutching my messenger bag in front of me, protecting my cash and car keys as my mother always taught me, I feel the warmth of his body behind mine. Laughter ensues as I hear a male voice say, “C’mon dude, just do it.” The touch of his hands on my backside first, then fondling his way around my hip towards my stomach and under my shirt before I turn around and slap his arm away.
Our eyes meet, and I recognize his face. A football player who I thought was my friend. His accomplice an acquaintance, but known around school for his popularity. The assailant is smiling at me, then looks over at his friend. They give each other a high five.
My heart is racing, I feel tears well up in my eyes. I want to run, but I’m not going to let them win. I have every right to be there. To buy my tickets without being sexually assaulted. I have a chat with myself, reminding the scared little girl inside to be strong. Don’t run. Stand your ground.
As this internal dialogue goes on in my head, I feel hands upon me again. This time the hands feel different, more aggressive. Turning around I scream, “Stop!” This time it’s the popular friend. He laughs at my anger. People in all directions stare at me. As someone who doesn’t like attention, this is my worst nightmare. Or rather, being the center of attention was my worst nightmare, before I was sexually assaulted.
I force my way to the front of the pack and quickly hand over my cash and grab my prom tickets. I make a dash for the bathroom, where I get sick. I wanted to stay in that bathroom for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to face what would come in just a matter of minutes. Biology class with my assaulter.
Washing my face and gargling water to get rid of the taste of bile from my mouth, I desperately want to go home. I want to shower, change clothes, get rid of this feeling of disgust that has encompassed my body. I want to take a time-machine and go back five hours prior, and stay home from school that day.
That day, I became a statistic. Nearly one in five women report being a victim of a sexual crime. I’m one of those women. I was never the same after that day. I went from a happy-go-lucky teenager to a girl who experienced feelings beyond her years: shame, depression, anxiety. Never again would I feel comfortable in a crowd of people. Never again would I fully trust male friends, even if I had known them my whole life. I looked at my brothers differently. I made sure to always have my back against a wall at school if I wasn’t in a seat. Chaos was my enemy as it brought up too many variables. I longed for structure in the classroom, and an “open period” brought on anxiety and fear. I skipped pep rallies or any other large gathering where students could roam freely. I packed snacks for lunch or would skip it altogether so I wouldn’t have to stand in line. My every move became calculated and planned.
I pressed charges against my assailants. One was black, and the other was white. The black student was expelled. To this day I don’t know if the white student was ever reprimanded at all. I never saw the black student again; however, his friends made sure to make my life a living hell. The white assailant’s girlfriend came up to me screaming, calling me horrific names in the hallway a few days after the attack. While I don’t recall everything she said, I do remember her calling me a slut and accusing me of trying to seduce her boyfriend. I learned then and there that victims will be blamed.
I had family members advise that I dress differently so as not to attract attention from boys. An administrator suggested that I consider switching schools after the incident in the hallway with the jealous girlfriend. So-called friends stopped hanging out with me. It was a lonely experience I wish upon no one.
The whole ordeal made me realize these facts. There are men who think that women are made for their pleasure regardless of consent. Racism does exist for sure, as I have no idea why the black student was expelled but the white student walked at graduation. And finally, there will always be people who blame the victim.
As a mother of a young daughter, I’m scared for her safety and security, especially under a Trump administration. The thought that Donald Trump, the same man who says something like, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” could be my president, scares the shit out of me. This man has no filter, no compassion and has lived a life of privilege to the point where he thinks because he’s a “star” he can get away with anything.
The star football player thought he could do anything too. He thought he could touch me wherever he pleased, regardless of me smacking away his hand, or telling him to stop. He thought nothing of his actions or me. And neither does Donald Trump. His first reaction after being caught red-handed? A half-ass apology, along with a “but Bill Clinton has done worse!’’
Is this who we want for our president? Is this the type of person we can trust to make decisions that impact our daughters and their bodies? Who will appoint Supreme Court Justices whose opinions will change the lives of women everywhere?
For the sake of our daughters, Donald Trump cannot be president. It’s too risky. There is too much at stake. A vote for him puts every mother, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, grandmother who has been a victim of sexual violence in the crosshairs again. It tells the rest of the world that we not only put up with sleazy, perverted, dirty old men, we elect them to run our country.
One last note. Recently, on Facebook a profile came up of a former classmate. I’m assuming Facebook thinks we should be friends since we both went to the same high school. It was the white guy who sexually assaulted me. He’s supporting Trump. Go figure.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.