Ever Since Donald Trump insulted Megyn Kelly after a debate, I’ve told those around me that I can’t talk about the current election cycle. Don’t get me wrong, I did (and still do) indulge and discuss the candidates with my family and friends, but it does not take me very long to become unhinged and begin to repeat that I simply cannot discuss it. Those around me told me that it was because I didn’t want to “face the facts” about the candidate I was supporting or that I just did not want to admit that my choice of candidate also had skeletons in the closet. I typically would respond by being agitated and eventually resign to the fact that my family and friends were right; I “couldn’t take it”. It was not until this latest Trump scandal came about and his lewd, offensive, misogynistic comments surfaced that I realized why I cannot talk about the candidates: It’s because Trump is a trigger for me. His actions, body language and seemingly endless comments remind me of my past abusers.

When I was in high school, I worked part time. In my first year at my job, my boss sexually assaulted me. We were alone after a work function and he asked if he could see my vagina. He wanted to “grab me by the pussy” as Trump would say. Me, being seventeen and intimidated, pulled my pants down, exposed myself and hoped that would suffice for my boss. It didn’t. He proceeded to masturbate in front of me, finished and commented on my beautiful body. I have no idea now what I mumbled to him as I stood, exposed, in front of a man I knew I would have to see at work 4 days a week. He left shortly after.

Days later, he called me into his office and told me I was getting a raise. He also asked if we were “cool” and mentioned how if anyone heard what happened, they wouldn’t believe a man of his stature (a family man in a high position) would do anything like that. I took that as a threat of a he said / she said battle that I would surely lose if I were to ever tell anyone what happened. My boss used his position of power to get what he wanted and then used his authority to essentially pay me off to not tell anyone what had happened.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college. During my orientation, I became friends with the freshman Orientation Leader, a senior who was very much involved in his fraternity. Though Orientation Leaders were not supposed to socialize with members of their orientation group, we started to hang out. We started to see more of each other and began dating. We enjoyed each other’s company. We studied together. I went to him for advice during Rush Week because I respected his opinion. Through all of this, we never slept together. He tried many times and I told him I wasn’t ready to take that step with him yet, and he respected that. After a few weeks, he started to see a friend of mine. They began hanging out more and more and we less and less. She told me they were sleeping together. That was that. My first six weeks in college had left me sleep deprived and dumped.

One evening, he texted me and asked me to come over. When I arrived he offered me a drink, which I accepted, and we sat in his living room and talked about my friend he was seeing. He told me he thought he loved her. He told me he missed me. He told me he didn’t know what to do. As he spoke, he inched closer and closer to me until he was on top of me. I told him to stop. I told him no. I told him no 27 times. I hoped if I kept repeating the word, it would suffice for my former Orientation Leader-turned brief boyfriend-turned ex. It didn’t. We moved from couch to dining room where I proceeded to say no and he finally just hit me in the face in response. I said nothing after that.

The aftermath of that evening ruined me. News of my “encounter” as it was dubbed spread across the tiny campus. My rapist told his friends and my new sorority sisters that I was making everything up. That I was upset he was sleeping with my friend and I simply wanted to get even with her. That I was just another freshman girl who wanted to sleep with a senior boy. Some faculty members agreed with him and actually said I was lying and trying to cause trouble (this was written in faculty emails that were later given to me).

After weeks of fallout, I left the school. I left my life behind and moved to a different state. It was two years before I accepted that running away from something does not equate to healing. These past few weeks of the campaign have brought up old feelings that I forgot existed in me. It has taken me and countless other survivors of sexual assault and violence back to places we never wanted to be.

I have encountered men who think like Donald Trump. Men who believe that their authority means they can have whatever or whomever they want. Men who think that a woman’s body is nothing more than their play thing. If they want it, they can have it. Donald Trump has shown the American people that these are his beliefs: women are not his equal. They are unimportant unless they are attractive and have “big phony tits”. His “locker room talk” is sexual assault. This is HIS character. This is the character of a potential president. I echo what thousands of others are saying, “how did we get here?”

His lack of respect for women — and also anyone who isn’t a white male — his lack of knowledge on policy, domestic & foreign relations are reasons why I can’t support him. His history of sexual harassment and treatment of women are why I can’t discuss him. He takes me back to a place that I have worked too hard to get past.