Here’s the thing about assault. It doesn’t go away. You feel it, years later. You feel it when you think about what happened to you. Close to the anniversary of the occasion. Or when you visit the place where it happened. When you have nightmares. When you tell your story. Stories.
You think about it when you hear the leaked tape of a presidential candidate casually boasting about assaulting women. About grabbing them by their genitals. About kissing them without asking. You think about it when he dismisses it as “locker room talk,” when many citizens of your country agree with him, even some women.
If you can’t handle the way men talk about women then you need to grow up, says some washed up TV actor, a former heartthrob turned misogynist.
Thankfully there are men in your life who call bullshit on this behavior. Who are pissed off to be included in a gender that normalizes this kind of conversation, that helps perpetuate our rape culture. Who remind you with their love and kindness that not all men talk like this, not all men think like this. That this is NOT OK. Thankfully there are also men not in your life who feel the same way. Professional athletes who say, this isn’t how I talk about women. Actors and writers and even some Republicans say it too.
Here’s the thing about assault. When you think about it, write about it, you feel it in your body. No matter how much time has passed. No matter what kind of assault you endured. You feel the adrenaline racing. You feel your heart rate rising. You return to your animal self, running through the woods, across a savanna, down a city block, hoping to outrun the predator who is chasing you. Maybe the predator never touches you. Maybe he just makes you run. Scares you because he can. Maybe he pushes you out of a job, a home, a school, a family.
Every woman I know has an assault story. Some men, too. Most women have more than one. I have several, and yet I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I was never raped, though when I was twenty years old I was grabbed the way presidential candidate Donald Trump brags about grabbing women, the way several women have accused him of grabbing them.
I have more stories that I won’t detail here, but let me be clear when I say this:
Every single one of them has risen up in the past few weeks.
Ever since the news of that leaked tape, ever since I watched the first and second presidential debates, especially the second. All those old stories, those old scars, they are still there and they came to find me. In my waking moments, and in my dreams.
Assault does not disappear. It stays with you forever. And we are about to hold a presidential election in our country with a man on the ticket who brags about such things, who has been accused about such things, and who frankly, I believe has done such things.
I didn’t intend to write about this today. After the second debate I wrote several essays and blog posts in my head, and threw them all away. I felt unable to capture my disgust and fear and horror. I still feel unable, but here I am, after having read many other accounts over these past weeks, by brave women, and horrified men, so many of us triggered and enraged and sickened.
But I’m not going to throw this one out. This one gets to stay.