Sunday, October 16, 2016

This is NOT Normal "Locker Room Talk"

I didn't think I'd ever write about this.  Ever.  Ever ever.  My fingers tremble as I begin.

However the recent video released from Donald Trump in which he says "when you are a star, they let you do can do anything," and the on-going follow-up afterwards, is compelling me to speak up.  As I listened to Michelle Obama’s passionate speech about this subject, I heard her say the following, " would be dishonest and disingenuous of me to just move on to the next thing like this is all a bad dream...this is not something that we can just sweep under the rug as another disturbing footnote in a sad election season...It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen – something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day...if all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children?"  I realized that the violation that I felt during one period of my life also needs to come out as part of the landscape of what women deal with from generation to generation that is glossed over and passed over by countless others.  I realized that my story is one of thousands upon thousands, but it may be one that is helpful to share to remind us that this is very real, very disturbing, and very much part of our present. 

When I was nineteen years old, a sophomore at college, I was acquaintance-raped.  The guy was a senior, a captain of a sports team, and a guy I thought was really cool.  It was April and he was graduating from Calvin College in a few weeks.  He hadn't really paid any attention to me prior to this event but that night, out of the blue, he called me and asked if he could come over.  His girlfriend had just broken up with him, he was bummed out, and he wanted to talk.  He showed up at my door with a twelve pack of beer and proceeded to lament his situation.  And then he started to make some moves on me.  At first, I was flattered.  But then, not so much.

And then he went further and I told him "no" a number of times.  But he didn't stop.  I didn't scream.  I didn't hit.  I didn't punch.  I struggled.  I was overwhelmed.  I felt helpless.  He was popular.  He was a star (in my eyes). I didn't know how to stop it.  And then it was over.  The next day, he sent me an "I'm sorry" card, which I still have.  He knew what he did was wrong.  I never heard from him again.  He graduated a few weeks later and disappeared.

Life for me changed dramatically after that.  Up until that time, I had had a very active social life but it all stopped after that event.  I told no-one.  For two years, I dated no-one.  I stopped seeing friends.  My parents, who had called me their "sunshine girl" while I was growing up, didn't know what happened as their little girl was no longer smiling.    I focused on school and began working forty hours a week while going to school full-time, just to stay busy.  I made three appointments with my pastor over those two years, but cancelled each one as I could not bring myself to talk about it.  I was struggling with tremendous guilt and shame.  How could I complain about something when I didn't do everything to stop it?  I thought it would have been easier if I had been stranger-raped and attacked.  This was a very quiet, hidden crime.

I didn't tell anyone for two years.  Two very long, lonely years.  The first person I finally told was Bob, not as a counselor, but as my boyfriend at that time.  He, of course, helped me to process it and put the locus of responsibility off myself and onto this man.  Bob helped me heal and come back to be myself again.  My parents were so happy when Bob came into my life because they said they finally had their little girl back.  I started to smile again.

Why am I telling this now in this public forum?  Because of the words that Trump used as related to justifying sexual assault and then calling it locker room talk.  That was NOT locker room talk.  Locker room talk is crude; it is not about assault and breaking the law.  He was a 59 years old man (!!) who had been married for one month to his third wife when that incident was caught on tape.  He was not a pimply 19 year old trying to impress his buddies.  These comments show a scary side of a need in a grown man for power and control.  Saying that he can "do anything" to women, because of his position, was reminiscent to me of the man who raped me.  This guy knew that because of his sports position and being a senior that he had some power over me, a young enamored starry-eyed girl.  I imagine the women that Trump groped felt the same way as I did.

But I think it was even worse for them.  Their jobs were/are at stake.  This is a man who is has no hesitation to publicly lie and call names at any accusation. I completely understand why the women now accusing Trump of sexual assault didn't come forward for years and years.  It was 28 years ago for me and while I have no interest in knowing what the man who did this to me is doing now, I would feel compelled to speak up if he entered a public arena.  Without a doubt. 

I'm glad that the person interviewing him, Billy Bush, was suspended.  We apparently have lower standards for people running for president then for journalists.  It's appalling to me that Donald Trump might be the president of this country and that we, as a people, have let him get as far as he has.

As a victim of sexual assault, I'm outraged.

As a woman, I'm outraged.

And as a human being, I'm outraged.

This is not a political statement.  I have no interest in engaging politics in this blog.  But I do care about not having someone who flouts sexual assault as the commander-in chief of this country.

Enough is enough.