truth and dread (cw: rape and sexual assault)

November 13, 2016

estimated reading time: 5 minutes
(display images, it'll help)

1. A piece on sexual violence and America, submitted by a friend:

At eight years old, a man showed me his penis while I walked around a mini mall with my mom. Not a penis-owner, and only eight years old, I was afraid he had forgotten to tuck it back in. At least that is what I told my mom before she called to have him arrested. He was given a plea and I never discussed it again with my family.

At 13, a boy non-consensually rubbed my vagina, slowly moving his hands between my legs while he assumed I was asleep. I later found out that he had done the same to many other girls on our bus ride back from the nation’s capital.

At 14, I was sexually harassed online, berated, bullied until I sent half-naked pictures to a boy in my class. He had a party that night and showed them around the school. Only I got sent to the principal’s office.

At 15, I lost my virginity. He was eighteen, an age difference considered statutory rape in the state where I was raised. He said I had to suck his dick. I said no. He threw me on the bed and tried to shove his unlubricated, limp dick inside me until he was done.

At 19, after breaking up with an emotionally-abusive boyfriend, I got drunk with a couple of friends. I drank 25 “getting over him” drinks. Too many. A man, really a boy, saw an opportunity and forced himself inside me as I screamed no and pushed him away. The next day, my roommates laughed that they could hear my drunken screams through the wall.

At 22, I told a therapist how I had been raped. She was happy that I wouldn’t get that drunk and allow someone to take advantage of me again.

At 23, I saw the electoral map bleed red, and I was breathless. I am still breathless. We the people enabled the appointment of a sexual predator to our highest office. And there isn’t a word that adequately captures the mixed emotions of rage and sadness that I feel.

I am upset by a Trump presidency, because I go through every day with an immense amount of hope. I hope that the good in people will outweigh the bad. I hope that my experience is an outlier, that the arduous uphill climb after being broken by an assault is something that only few people will have to endure. I hope that the men that assaulted me, took advantage of me, and harassed me saw something in me that they could target, not that every woman is a target. I hope that the others — the people who laughed at my assault, the people who blamed me for it, the people that encouraged my silence — were anomalous. I hope that I just found the bad eggs, the rotten apples — whatever idiomatic expression of the worst face of humanity, I found them, or they found me.

But a Trump presidency confirms all the fears that I have, the truth that I prefer to keep hidden from myself. A Trump presidency tells me that sexual assault is okay in the eyes of my fellow Americans. That there is an overpowering group of Americans that would prefer my silence when I am assaulted. That there is a common belief that the men who assaulted me, who have assaulted others, and who will continue to assault, were still truly good men. Presidential, even. That many believe that justice is “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action” and that women are almost always lying when they allege an assault. That I was right not to come forth about my sexual assault, because in a “he said, she said” scenario, what she said means little or nothing at all.

What is so incredibly enraging about a Trump presidency is that hope, the hope that I don every morning to make it through the day, was erased. I had hoped that maybe my experience was one sewn by the remnants of a bygone era. That our parents’ and grandparents’ conservative ethics had formed the society that I grew up in, and that as we shaped the society our children would live in, they wouldn’t have to deal with this. But I know that every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in our country, and I can’t imagine that a man that brags that he can grab a woman by the pussy is going to improve that statistic. I can’t fathom that the hate that spews from his mouth, or the nicely-packaged hate politicized by his party, will prevent that statistic from breaking our children the same way it has broken us.

2. Joan Williams: “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class

(this is a 10-minute read and you should read the whole thing, but here’s a quote)

“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me. A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family. Neither is minimum wage. WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.

3. A flowchart to help organize your thinking about what to do next:

4. What Kind of Times Are These
by Adrienne Rich

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light — 
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.