It leaves a mark

Watching Donald Trump accuser Jessica Leeds on CNN Thursday night was sobering. Even 30+ years after Trump pawed at her on a flight the angst was palpable. Leeds told Anderson Cooper, “It leaves a mark.”

That’s true. I know because it happened to my wife. She has been groped and grabbed by several men over the years. And it left a mark — several, in fact. Hyper sensitivity, awareness of her dress style, internal conflict about what she did wrong, even and especially when she did nothing wrong. She merely encountered an un-woke man like Trump who barked at her for his own priggish reasons.

Let’s be charitable for a moment and assume that men like Trump are merely unaware. What they don’t realize after grabbing a server’s butt or making a sexist comment to a co-worker is the long lasting impact of such behavior.

Normal men are left dealing with mess they leave. We hold our wives, wiping away tears as they recount the invasion. We see them work to not internalize the assault and we watch as they struggle to raise our daughters knowing the same thing could happen to them, an indelible stain on their souls that surges when something Trump-ian emerges from the news.

Even Michelle Obama, one of the more impressive people most of us will ever come across, said in a speech this week that Trump’s deep misogyny and shameful actions have a huge impact on her, “I can’t stop thinking about this — it has shaken me to my core.”

Michelle Obama. First lady. Princeton graduate. JD from Harvard Law School. Former associate dean at the University of Chicago.

Michelle Obama.

And what Trump did hit her like a ton of bricks, which shows how pernicious the crap like that can be — even years later — no matter how high women rise up.

Here’s the thing. This isn’t a female problem. Men bear responsibility.

So try this mantra: don’t be a sexist prick. Don’t grab women. Don’t say idiotic things to women. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do to your mom or sister or daughter. Let’s try that shall we? So women we love don’t have to internalize the pain it causes.

Women like my wife spend years in therapy, questioning their choice to walk down that street or wear that outfit to work or wondering what they did to earn such disrespect. They never get the answer because it simply doesn’t make sense.

I’ve watched my wife struggle to talk to my daughter about what such nonsense in the world means to her. I’ve quietly prayed that my daughter won’t be a victim, but then she tells me about the guys who stare on the subway or make grabs on the street. And I fume — because of the life-long pain it’s caused her mother. The antediluvian part of me wants to snap their necks, but the better part of me knows that — good as that might feel — it still won’t erase the stain.

Rape culture won’t vanish after the election. Trump is clearly a serial groper, likely a sexual predator and at the very least a sexist pig. He may well lose the Nov. 8 vote but the issue he’s inserted into our national dialogue is one worth examining for its legacy of white male privilege and inability for empathy.

Jessica Leeds is clearly telling the truth, which means she’s a nightmare for the Trump campaign — that will no doubt try to smear her in the coming weeks. But one of the points she made on Thursday night was, “I’d like to see men grow up and stop being 16 year olds.”

Amen to that.

Leeds 2020.