Why the Trump Tape is Personal

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump says in the recording. “You can do anything.”

Since the Trump tape came out, I have not been able to stop thinking about his comments. They have been replaying in my mind over and over again; I can’t seem to let this go.

It’s not like I didn’t already know that Donald Trump was a deplorable human being who says hateful and bigoted things about women, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and people with disabilities. This has been clear since day one of his campaign.

But these particular comments struck a nerve. They felt personal.

The fact that we have a candidate running for president who condones and even encourages sexual assault is baffling. And infuriating. And terrifying.

But that’s not why I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it because I, like one in five women, am a survivor of sexual assault. His comments were a sucker punch to the gut, a reopening of a wound that I am continually trying to heal.

Most days it’s like it never happened. I go to work. I come home. I walk my dog. I spend time with friends. I live my life.

But then there are moments, like when I heard Trump’s vile comments, when all I can think about is that night, his hands, his weight on top of me, and my cries for help.

Most, if not all women, have experienced some form of harassment or assault. To some, it may seem like an isolated incident or crude joke, but “locker room talk” or sexual assault are all part of a much larger culture that condones and fosters violence against women.

Let me be clear: This isn’t “locker room talk.” This is rape culture. This is the culture that allows women to be harassed and assaulted. This is the culture that dehumanizes women and treats them like objects.

I was 14 the first time I was touched without giving consent. It was my second day of high school and my locker neighbor reached over and grabbed my breast. I slapped him. He laughed in my face.

Age 15: I’m working my summer job and a man who looked like he was in his 30’s comes up to me.

“You’re a pretty little thing, bet we could have some fun. When’s your shift over? ”

Age 18: I’m out dancing with a group of my friends on a Saturday night. A man grabs me and puts his hands under my skirt. I struggle to get away from his grasp. It’s only when my friend sees my distress and helps push him off of me that I escape his clutches.

Age 20: I was followed by a man while traveling in Europe. He invited me to his flat. I kept saying no, but he didn’t like that answer. After trying to lose him in a busy crowd, I went up to a random couple and pretended they were family friends. He finally left me alone.

Age 22: The horrible night that changed me forever. I was violated in a taxi cab by the driver. I had to crawl out of the car and run down the block to get away. I still remember:

The terror.

The pain.

The guilt.

I still sometimes get nervous when I’m in a cab alone, and I grip my belongings to my chest tightly in case I need to escape.

Age 24: I am followed by a man into my apartment building. He finally leaves after the concierge threatens to call the police.

3 weeks ago: I’m walking home and a man slaps my ass. I start to confront him when his buddy proceeds to grab me.

“Come on baby, I know you like this.”

This Morning: A group of construction workers turn around to stare at me as I walk to work. I have my headphones in, but the music can’t drown out their whistles or catcalls.

I have been objectified since before I even knew what that term meant. I am not a woman to them, sometimes I barely even feel human. This is rape culture.

I wish I could say my story is unique, but it’s not. After the tape was released, millions of women took to social media with their sexual assault stories and these are just the ones who have talked publicly about it.

Every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted. Let that sink in.

Trump only confirms, what I and many women already know, that we are sexual prey to certain men. That our worth is tied to how men see us and that we as women are somehow fundamentally not valued or recognized as human beings.

Look no further than the responses from top Republicans criticizing Trump to see that the problem is bigger than just one disgusting man’s comments. Whether it is Paul Ryan’s “women are to be championed and revered” remark to Mitch McConnell’s disapproval as a father. Women are either put on a pedestal in some Victorian-era “let’s protect women’s virtue” ideology or are simply only valued because of their relationship to men.

I refuse to accept that narrow definition of our humanity.

Women have inherent value because we are people. And our bodies belong to us, not to men. It’s as simple as that.

So what do we do now?

I, for one, do not accept living in a society where this behavior is condoned. I believe we can do better. We MUST do better. We can’t let Trump win. Because if he does, then this would be a national endorsement for rape culture.

Trump’s comments are not a joke. They are a personal affront to me as a woman. They are a glaring reminder, that in this rape culture — women are not safe. And that will always be personal.