As I watched the 2016 election results roll in on Tuesday night, I was uneasy. Early results trended Trump. I went to sleep around midnight, feeling nervous, but with so many states too early to call, I had a sliver of hope.
I woke up at 3am, checked my phone, and I froze.
I texted some of my friends who were also awake and in shock. I was shaking. I had a panic attack. I’ve only felt this way a few times in my life. My chest was aching, I had trouble catching my breath, and I was too stunned to cry.
When I look at Donald Trump, I see every man who’s ever sexually assaulted me. I see the boy who grabbed my neck when I was 8 years old and whispered that he was going to kiss me and that I couldn’t stop him. I see the man who pulled his car onto the sidewalk in front of my apartment, blocked my path, grabbed me, and forced his lips on my mouth before I broke into the self-defense stance that I learned in college. I see the guy who grabbed my hips on a crowded metro and grinded against my skirt while I tried desperately to move away, but I was trapped. I can still picture his grin – his smirk – before he ran away at the next station. It looked something like this.
After each of those experiences, I felt temporarily paralyzed. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t speak. I remember looking at everyone else on that metro car thinking, why didn’t you help me? How did you stand by and let that happen? And they kind of shrugged and looked at me with sympathy as if to say, “well we weren’t sure if it was as bad as it looked…” I felt stunned and abandoned.
And that’s how I felt at 3am when my phone told me that Donald Trump was going to be my president.
I went to work in a trance. My colleagues told me how difficult it was to break the news to their daughters. My teacher friends shared that their students were crying at school. I cried during a meeting. I’ve never cried at work and yesterday, three of my colleagues heard me cry. I was embarrassed; I felt unprofessional, but, fortunately, I work with kind, courageous people who told me it’s okay and assured me that we’re all hurting.
The thing is though, we’re not ALL hurting. There are plenty of people who voted for Trump and believe they voted for the lesser of two evils. And they feel pretty OK right now, because if you’re not a woman, or gay, or trans, or a person of color, or person with a disability, aside from the fact that a grossly under-qualified person will now have access to nuclear weapons, you don’t feel like your personal safety is at risk. Trump promised to change things. He promised to break up the system. And that resonated with a lot of people. I get that.
I know a lot of people have reasons that they don’t like Hillary Rodham Clinton. Personally, I’ve admired her my whole adult life.
She earned a law degree when few women were going to law school, she was criticized for keeping her own last name back in 1979, and she’s faced criticism her whole life but her work, her passion, and her commitment to human rights is something that I am deeply in awe of and inspired by. I know everyone doesn’t feel that way, and that’s fine. That’s your opinion, that’s your position, that’s your choice, that’s your vote. We live in a democracy and I respect that. I also respect the results of this election.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not heartbroken over this outcome.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve watched videos of frat boys high five-ing and cheering “Trump that bitch!” and “Make grabbing pussies legal!” And while I know every Trump supporter isn’t advocating for these things, or condoning that behavior, rape culture is alive and well and I’m not. I’m not well, and I don’t feel safe, and I don’t feel good. Neither do my non-white friends. Neither do my LGBT friends. We elected a VP who supports conversion therapy. It’s horrific.
There’s so much more I want to say. And I will. For now, I’m still in the grieving stage. But I’m looking ahead. I take comfort in knowing that half of us voted for Hillary. I know that the majority of Americans still support marriage equality. I know that the majority of Americans are pro-choice. For now, I’m seeking opportunities to do good and make change and be kind and make my voice heard.
We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to agree that women are humans with rights. Sadly, my experiences with sexual assault are insignificant compared to what a lot of women have endured. We have to call out this behavior when it happens. We have to stop saying “boys will be boys” and dismissing rape culture as “locker room talk.” And when someone commits sexual assault, we need to hold him accountable, not elect him President of the United States. Next time, America. Until then, we need to fight for justice for all. And we need to continue to empower and restore value in women.