The last two years of the political climate in the U.S. have been unlike any others in recent history. One of the strongest themes that we’ve seen has had to do with sexual assault. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about the #MeToo movement and very shortly after, allegations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have come center stage. This feels like an incredible and devastating repeat of the allegations that surfaced against Trump during the last presidential election. One week after Trump was elected, I wrote a piece about how impactful it was for sexual assault survivors to have witnessed the way the allegations were handled and then the shocking post-election results. All of my clients that had experienced some form of sexual aggression were devastated, terrified, bewildered, and puzzled as to how things turned out as they did. In light of what’s currently happening with Kavanaugh, I would like to reshape my former post.
Perpetrator in the Oval Office – the presidential election from the perspective of sexual trauma survivors
November 16, 2016
It is officially one week post-election results. And while the emotional dust has yet to settle for many, some things have gained a bit of clarity. I don’t desire to have a conversation about political policy or my political party versus yours, the conversation I wish to have is to shed light on the experience of the presidential election for the millions (potentially billions) of sexual trauma survivors across the world.
As the presidential campaigns gained speed, it didn’t take long before the skeletons in each candidates closets were dragged out. It was clear that each candidate had many skeletons to account for, but this may have been the first election that sexual assault became one of the main topics of conversation. As soon as one woman stepped forward, a landslide of others came crashing down on Trump’s main stage. The accounts were disturbing, to say the very least; forcibly putting his hands up their skirts to touch their genitals, pushing himself onto them in order to kiss on the lips, and groping their derrieres. As would be expected in such a scenario, Trump denied all of the allegations, stating that these women were seeking their 15 minutes of fame by telling lies about him and insinuating that some were too unattractive to presumably be worthy of his vulgar “flattery.”
It is all too often that when women, in particular, speak their truth, they are denied of it. Somehow, their bold and powerful proclamations don’t stand up against the faint whispers of a man’s. Time and again, women are told that their reality is not the objective reality, therefore debunking it. However, objective reality does not exist, only individual realities do. While one person may be experiencing extreme pleasure, the other participant (unwilling, or even willing) may be experiencing an equal amount of pain and distress.
It didn’t take long before the infamous “locker room talk” video surfaced and Trump was caught, quite literally red-handed, sharing his personal accounts on how he has greeted and treated women in the past. He stated, “I don’t even wait,” when referring to kissing attractive women that he meets. He continues with, “When you’re a star, you can do whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy!” In just three short sentences, Trump admitted to not bothering with consent to touch a woman and to abusing his authority to get what he wants. It seemed that the majority of folks thought this would be the death of The Donald’s campaign. But on November 8th, 2016, a different story was written.
Trump succeeding to power has been a devastating blow for many different communities. For those that are survivors of sexual trauma, it has been crushing for very particular reasons. Two explanations as to how Trump could make it to the White House given such damning evidence seem to come to mind for such survivors:
1. We (the nation, the public, the people, etc.) don’t believe you.
2. We hear the atrocities that have been done to you but it doesn’t mean enough to change our opinion.
To not be heard, to not be believed, to not be protected or understood; these are the lived experiences of the wounded. The world can feel as if there are traps around every corner, someone always lurking to take from you what isn’t theirs, without even considering the destruction that is created. From a survivor’s perspective, it feels as though a perpetrator has been given the ultimate position of power, thereby sending the message to others, that such unacceptable behavior can be overlooked, can be discarded, can be pushed under the rug with the label of “locker room talk.” Healing from sexual trauma can feel like a constant uphill battle, but when a person that has admitted to inflicting such trauma becomes the person in charge, that hill becomes Mt. Everest, where the air is so thin that every breath is painfully labored.
A radical event is necessary as the catalyst for a radical movement, and my hope is that through this ruin, radical change will ensue; voices will be heard, stories will be believed, consent will be sought, and boundaries will be respected. This is the America that I hope will be born, as a brilliant example for all.