The Trump sex assault tape sounds worse with each listen. Every syllable engenders feelings of being small and wretched and humiliated. I search for the genesis of these emotions, for the source of my desire to curl up into an invisible ball.
And the truths wash in:
The time my neighbor's boyfriend covered my six-year-old crotch with his (fifty? sixty?) year-old fingers, inserting them through the fabric, while giving me a swim lesson in Coney Island. My shame, even now, floods back. My shame.
The time a well-suited man with a briefcase grabbed my denim-covered vagina as he passed me on a sunny Manhattan street. Madison Avenue. With the casualness of ordering a hot dog. I was seventeen. My shame, even now, floods back. My shame.
When I tell my husband about these incidents, (just two moments of so many) he is shocked. I'm dismayed that it's a surprise until I realize that, like women all over the world, I carried these dirty secrets as though it was my shame to carry.
I go to Facebook, ready to never hide men's crimes again. I post one of my stories. The lesser of the evils (why?) about the man on Madison Avenue:
"When I grew up in NYC, being grabbed and groped made life miserable. Going on the subway meant avoiding hands. The worst was when I left Brooklyn and rode into Manhattan. Once, at 17, walking down the streets in a very expensive area, a businessman grabbed me just as Trump described. And the horror still stays with me to this day. It's not locker room talk; it's assault. This pic is me around this age."
I put up my high school graduation picture.
Without asking for anything, friend upon friends began posting their stories.
I was 6, alone in the library, when a creep exposed himself to me. I didn't know what I was seeing, didn't even know what/how to tell. A few years later, my dad sat me down to warn me about such guys-- little knowing it had already begun to happen.
The horror starts oh-so-achingly, horribly young:
I went through the same gauntlet of sexual harassment and assault going to junior high school and high school on the NYC subway every day. The first time I was groped, I was 11. This stuff ain't just talk--it translates into what happens to girls and women every day, all the time.
The first time it happened to me was 11, walking my bike across a 4-lane street in suburban New York. Two boys ran up to me, groped me, and ran away.
I remember being groped by "nice boys" from the neighborhood in the water at Revere beach . They thought it was fun. It was not. Today there would be at least some guidance on how to speak it. Then it was just shame.
I hated changing classes in junior high. We had lots of stairs in the school and it was hell for girls 6 times a day! Didn't matter if you were wearing pants or skirts, and they got you front and back! Plus the talk that used to go on in study hall or lunchroom. Boys using words like c*+#t if you protested and p%ssy if they thought they were giving you a come on. Deplorable! Girls never said anything to teachers or administrators due to shame.
For many of us the assaults were also at home:
Knock on wood nothing like this has happened to me in public but I could list of a couple of things that trump has done (either that he's bragged about or women said he did) that my mother's boyfriend did to me at home, or that happened at school.
The power of standing up and saying no more is the strongest of weapon we have. A few writers on my thread said "use my name, like New York Times bestselling authors Diane Chamberlain:
In my rather rough high school, as we left the cafeteria, there would be a tight bottleneck. Kids poured into the narrow hallway, body to body, and traffic slowed. There were certain boys who would "grab pussy from the rear" (don't know how else to describe it!) while the girls were trapped and helpless in that bottleneck. It was common and repulsive. Complaining finally got teachers to stand guard in that hallway.
And M.J. Rose:
Yes, it happened to me on the subway. In a blackout on the train once a guy grabbed my breast and them my hand and stuck my hand on his dick. I have never taken the subway alone since I was 15.
Rape and assault culture follows us to college:
And to make it worse you were told not to dress "that way," like it was your fault.
I was 19 and standing--almost hate say this among readers--in the hallowed stacks of my local library. A man squeezed behind me, put his hands between my legs, and swiped. I only saw his back as he swiftly retreated and of course I didn't yell--I was in a library. Who could I tell? I didn't even know what he looked like. Never told a soul till today.
I was in college, walking home to my dorm room in the afternoon, when a passing man reached out and grabbed my breast. I wasn't physically hurt, so it was hard for me to explain to myself why I felt so shaken and violated.
We leave home, hopeful, then greeted by horror, getting schooled in rape-avoidance:
When I moved from California to go to school in Boston, I didn't have a car and had to learn to ride the subway. A male friend told me that if someone groped me - and to be ready because they would - I should wait until the next stop, turn to the guy and scream at the top of my lungs, "GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME". He said chances were that the guy would run off the train. It worked. I had to grab a few by the balls, twist and tell them to go away. That worked. Getting past the age where I was a target worked too. What didn't/hasn't worked is trying to change attitudes (or something) so that neither men or women are harassed in that way. Sex is not a weapon. Using it as such is illegal but we need to do more.
My first day at Barnard College - riding the subway downtown. Carriage was packed. Next thing I knew this tall, ferocious looking man with a scar running across his face, had shoved his hand beneath my skirt, inside my underpants. I must admit I froze for a moment before finally pushing my way away.
And then, like a disease, we try--unsuccessfully-- to avoid assaults as we enter adulthood. The assaults are our own bosses, neighbors, fellow passengers, and those passing by, ready to grab our dignity:
I was at the Nathan's on 8th St in the Village when a guy grabbed me and stuck his tongue down my throat. It was horrifying. Still is.
I lived in New York in the early 80s and experienced the same thing. I'll never forget walking through Greenwich Village on a beautiful fall day, feeling happy and good about the world, when some guy walked by and said "Nice tits. I'd like to suck 'em off your chest." I felt as if I'd been slapped. I felt violated, humiliated, and suddenly self-conscious about what I was wearing (a sleeveless turtleneck, for God's sake). It ruined my day and stayed with me forever. The idea that men do that now to my daughters makes me sick.
Happened to me on #7 train and I had a backpack and French horn with me and I couldn't do anything. For years I thought it was my fault
After twenty, thirty, years, forty years and more, we remember. For so many of us it still hurts so badly that we can't even specify the crime:
I remember fuming when Clarence Thomas's actions toward Anita Hill were called "unwanted sexual advances." He attacked her!
Remember it. Experienced it. Horrified that it is still an issue.
I know almost no women who don't have these stories. For me, too, it was back in a time where it was seen as 'harmless fun', and making an issue if it was what was seen as odd. Starting with other boys, quickly including grown men, I remember feeling like I must be wrong for feeling like it WAS a big deal.
I remember I had a summer job in Manhattan . . . and was walking from the subway to the job...and this man who was dressed up like a business man . . . approached me and asked me to do some things to him . . . it was horrifying...just horrifying
And we had to ride the trains almost pretending to be blind to avoid all the men exposing themselves.
I've had a few similar experiences myself and they were mortifying, every one.
Doctors, lawyers, mothers, writers, teachers, retirees, journalists--all of us reduced to terrorized girls as we remember:
Unwanted attention from powerful men, needing these businesses deals, and that still is true today. All these stories are making me ill. Unfortunately I've had my share of these experiences as well and feel like vomiting now. I like the suggestion of when-i-got-grabbed, something like the take back the night movement years ago...take back the subway, the streets, our bodies, our lives.
The husband of a friend of mine grabbed me once in a pool, and I was filled with such shame. I did nothing, yet there I was: so embarrassed to tell anyone. It took weeks for me to find my voice and realize I did nothing wrong. Donald Trump's behavior is indefensible, and it will resonate with many women.
I had boss who was coming back from lunch drunk with another guy and passed me and my friend while we were going to lunch. He grabbed my breasts at the corner of Longwood and Brookline Avenues and laughed and said he always wanted to do that.
Our words are a rage-filled mix of inchoate and knife-like precision"
Groped quite often during my banking days . . . The story of men and boys forcing their will on women and girls is as old as the hills, and absolutely ruinous every damn time. I am struggling between sadness and rage over all this. At 17, I had no idea that a girl could grow up without being subjected to the will or whims of men, that a girl could be treasured, protected, made strong by a wonderful relationship with a father. I really didn't understand how to talk about what happened to me until I was 30 . . .
. . . And then there would be many, many, many hours of recovery work in private, and in a women's group. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that that saved my life -- not because I ever felt I should end my life. I really never did. But because telling and listening was so incredibly powerful, and so anchored me in reality (the reality of the world and a comparative reality with others because I learned about their experiences too) I was given a new foundation to grow from, and 4-5 other women who said yes, and we believe you -- every single week.
The deficit that assault imposes on its targets is tremendous. But I made use of the anger I uncovered, and I made it serve me as an individual, and I have never doubted nor apologized for its power. Thank you for opening this difficult and all too common and devastating subject. Women supporting women can do almost anything, and I am proud to know you through this crazy FB network. Blessings of earth on each and every one of you reading or responding to this thread.
We speak up for the next generation:
It's so creepy to be out with my daughter and see men older than me checking her out.
My daughter just said that this (Trump's taped remarks) is what perpetuates rape culture. It's sad that she's aware of it at 17 but also a relief to know that she is able to defend herself and speak out against it. Maybe this generation is taking their professional opportunities for granted and working to eliminate systemic misogyny and discrimination.
My daughter is 21 and says that she can be dressed in the crappiest clothes, leggings and a XXL men's button down shirt, hair in a pony tail, no makeup and she gets lewd comments or even just pick up lines. This happens at places like Home Depot and by men old enough to be her father!
I find myself grateful for the men who 'liked' the thread. This isn't a war we fight alone. And it happens to men, too:
As an "out" gay boy in high school, I was assaulted in the locker room, groped repeatedly and told to "put out" because I was "a disgusting faggot." I was once seized in a parking lot by a bunch of drunk jocks as I made my way home after a drama-class play and tied to a car fender, dragged about the parking lot before three of my drama classmates came flying out in my defense with props - yes, props - from the play to threaten the jocks. I was cat-called in my 20s for dressing like "a fairy" and in my 40s in my government job as a highly skilled grant writer, my male boss made lewd comments to me during supervision, insinuating I could "get ahead if I gave some head" and then, after I refused him on numerous occasions, citing I was married to my husband among other reasons, he proceeded to make my working life a living hell by increasing my workload, denying vacation requests, keeping me late, and generally making himself the center of my personal hell until he caused me to have a nervous breakdown. It's not as common as it is with women, but it happens, and it's horrifying for the person on the receiving end. You feel humiliated, disempowered and it makes you feel as if you've done something wrong, when in fact they are the ones taking advantage of a patriarchal system that favors men in power acting like slobs.
I thank writer Kim Bullock, summing this up with such strength.
This is me at sixteen, two years AFTER the first time a stranger thought it his right to grope me the manner Trump describes. The photo was taken maybe a month after the time I had three random men in ONE WEEK, all strangers, pinch, proposition or otherwise consider my body their personal plaything. I did or said nothing to invite such attention, not that it should matter, and I was about as covered up as I was in this photo, not that that should matter either.
Look closely. That is the face of a child who felt as though she had targets painted over all her private parts and a sign that said "go ahead" on her forehead. That is the face of a child who felt she had no voice, no power. She felt about two inches tall.
Why do I share this publicly? To lend my voice to all the other women also sharing their stories today. To stand up and say that I've had it with people excusing rape culture in this country. Trump represents rape culture. It wasn't just locker- room talk and he's not sorry at all. He believes that money and notoriety give him the right to behave that way and he'll continue to do so if elected.
Please don't send the message that treatment like I and millions of other women and young girls have endured is okay. It is not okay!
The time has come for all of us to speak up, If we flood social media with our stories, perhaps the men in our lives, many of whom are GOOD men, will not be so quick to dismiss "locker-room" talk. Shame keeps us silent, but we have nothing to be ashamed of.
This is not our shame.
This is your shame, Mr. Trump, for assaulting women with your groping and grabbing, and your so-called-kisses, and your string of insults towards women for everything from menstruating, to breastfeeding, to eating, to going to the damn bathroom.
This is your shame, Billy Bush and every other person who becomes the wingman in assault.
This is our shame, America, if we allow this man anywhere near the White House.
It is on every decent man and woman in this country to say "No More."
Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.
Susan B. Anthony
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.