by Mandy Velez
I yawned as I watched my boyfriend turn on CNN Thursday morning, October 13, but my sleepiness quickly turned to shock and then anger when I read the words across the bottom of the screen.
Two women say Trump touched them inappropriately, according to the New York Times. Trump denies report, threatens lawsuit.
Of course, this news wasn't entirely shocking. I wrote up the news of the #TrumpTape that broke Friday, October 7, and regularly report on sexual assault. But my anger quickly turned to nausea, not just because the man who wants to lead our country has no respect for women, but because of the support his followers would -- and did -- lend him regardless.
I knew it wouldn't be long before they would try to discredit the accusers. And they did.
In a matter of hours, the hashtag #NextFakeTrumpVictim trended on Twitter as his supporters made an attempt to humiliate the women who came forward. Many questioned, just like they did with Bill Cosby's accusers, why they would wait until now to tell their stories come forward. Shouldn't they have come forward right away?
Donald Trump himself addressed the claims during a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, calling the allegations false, and blaming the Clintons, the New York Times, "third-rate journalism" and the attractiveness of one of the accusers as to why the news could not be true. He also attacked the accusers for coming forward for acts that allegedly happened more than 30 years ago.
What he and others don't understand, however, is that victims don't need a Pavlov's dog reaction to their assault for it to be true. Due to shame, and the kind of victim-blaming we're seeing play out right before our eyes, women who have been sexually assaulted or raped hardly ever come forward. The bleak amount of rapists that are convicted, or even make it to trial, prove this.
I know that's why I didn't.
Six years ago, a male friend sexually assaulted me in college. He wasn't famous, nor did he have a ton of money or influence over my life. I was not scared of him. But I never reported it. How could I? He was my friend. I blamed myself and wished I had been more direct. I didn't want to make things awkward or ruin what I thought was a friendship, so I handled it like most victims do: I pretended it never happened.
Outside my closest friends, I never even spoke of it at all. Life went on as usual, aside from the glances I'd steal, and wonder in the moments we were alone if he remembered what happened.
I graduated, moved to New York City, and have since lived a decently happy life.
I even, to this very day, still talk to him.
But I know that if he were running for president years after the fact, after years of my silence, I would have to say something -- especially if other women came forward. And I shudder to think that when I did, no one would believe me.
This is why it disgusts me to see Americans turn their backs on women and put the fame and likeability of a man with multiple accusations against him over the statistically probable experiences of women. Not just as wives, daughters or mothers but as people.
My assaulter is smart and funny. He's good to his friends and has a supportive family. I don't even know if he remembers what happened or if he knows how when he carried me up to my bedroom against my wishes (I did say "no") and stuck his fingers into my body as I laid there in a half-conscious stupor, something changed in me.
I don't know if he knows that what he did was wrong, or if he took my silence, and my it-never-happened way of handling trauma, as a sign that we were cool. That nothing really did happen and it was just a drunken hookup. I don't know if he knows that I still didn't want what happened to occur because "I didn't try" to stop it when reality, I didn't have the strength to stop it.
But none of those things means it didn't happen. None of those things mean that I'm a liar.
Yet that is something those who still support Trump, those who use that hashtag, and those who wonder Doesn't it seem weird they're coming forward now, will never understand.
I've never spoken publicly about my assault, because I refused to "be a victim." I refused to believe that something like this could happen to me. I refused to carry the weight of having someone I cared about so much betray me -- and not even know it. Instead, I blamed myself.
But in the wake of Trump, and in honor of the women who have come forward now, I need to accept my truth.
It's time Donald Trump, and his supporters, accept his.