Hey, Trump, Grab This.
Trigger warning: Rape, sexual assault
Twenty-six years ago tonight, I was raped.
Pearl Harbor Day, 1990. 8:15 PM. Louisville, KY. My small apartment on Main Street, which I’d just moved into about three weeks before. I was 24.
I’d been expecting a friend who lived in a studio apartment across the courtyard, so when I heard the knock on the door, I assumed it was my friend and …
I opened the door.
It wasn’t my friend, of course. It was a man I’d never seen before, who mumbled something about looking for someone named Mr. Smith (not the name he used — I’ll come back to that in a minute). I remember feeling immediately uncomfortable and shutting the door as I replied “Sorry, wrong apartment.”
He pushed his way in. I screamed and managed to bang on the wall in an unsuccessful attempt to alert the next-door neighbor before he grabbed my arms, then gagged me with my scarf that was draped across a chair near the door.
He demanded money. I had none. I was a barely employed stage actor. But I indicated to him where my wallet was, noting in some remote, more detached corner of my brain that he’d touched the wallet and thus, assuming I survived this, I could tell the police and maybe they’d get his fingerprints. (They did, but the prints weren’t usable.)
He was angry over my lack of cash. To this day, I wonder if I’d had more money, would he have left right then? Could I have avoided what happened next? Did I have to pay with my body for my poverty?
I survived that night, although the man who raped me was never found. The following week, I received a piece of mail addressed to the same man the rapist had asked about. He’d apparently been the prior resident of my apartment. I dutifully turned it over to the detective handling my case, who called me back two days later to inform me that man — the former resident — was at that moment serving a 30-year sentence in Virginia.
So, apparently, the man who raped me and the man who raped someone in Virginia were friends. It was a little downtown rape club, I guess.
In many ways, my experience was atypical. I was raped by a man who was a stranger to me, whereas the vast majority of victims are raped by people they know. I never felt any of the stigma or shame so many victims are subjected to, a secondary invasion that far too often follows the primary violation. I did try to get some counseling in the months following the rape, but I was on tour for most of that time, and it was just not possible to establish any kind of care.
By the time the tour was over, so was my interest in theater as a career, and I moved back home. There, I became a rape crisis advocate for several years. While I’d never even suggest this is or could be true for any other survivor, for me, being present for other victims was exactly the therapy I needed.
And now, it’s almost 30 years later. This country just elected, by a minority of voters, a man who’s supremely unfit for the office. Others have documented his many, many shortcomings more eloquently and authoritatively than I ever could, so I won’t even attempt to address all of it.
Instead, I want to revisit this:
I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. … I did try and fuck her. She was married … I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married…. I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her…And when you’re a star they let you do it….Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
After those comments surfaced, I noticed that any time I saw Trump’s face or heard his voice, online or on the news, I felt physically ill — a tightening of my chest and waves of nausea, accompanied by a quickened pulse and a throbbing pain behind my eyes.
It got so bad that I ultimately had to avoid news sites and channels entirely, because I could never know when I’d be subjected to another round of this, and it was seriously uncomfortable. Scary, even.
Finally, after a few days of this, it dawned on me: Oh, this is what they mean when they talk about being triggered. I’m being triggered.
That’s when I put it together: Trump’s admission to sexual assault and my own.
This isn’t easy to write. It won’t be easy to read. So I’m going to ask you, if you’re a survivor of sexual assault: Please think carefully before you scroll down and keep reading. I’m about to describe my own assault, and I cannot do it accurately without being explicit.
As queasy as it makes me to even contemplate writing the next few paragraphs, I feel fairly certain I need to do this.
So. Deep breath. Here we go. Back to my small apartment off Main Street in downtown Louisville, KY, Pearl Harbor Day, 1990.
The rapist shoved the few dollars I had into his pocket and tossed my wallet on a table. He had my arms pinned behind my back, my scarf wrapped so tightly around my head that I’d have a raw, angry, scraped patch on my neck for the next several days.
He took me into my bedroom, made me take off my pants and began to assault me. At some point, I managed to get my hands free and the scarf off my head. I had it in my hands and I was going to strangle him with it.
But I knew I’d have to kill him. And that thought …
I hesitated. Only for a split second, but it was enough for him to realize what I was doing.
He rammed his entire fist inside me and yelled at me, “I will rip out your womb!”
Do I need to describe the searing physical pain this caused me? OK, I will anyway, just in case, for the empathy-challenged: It felt as if I were being ripped apart, torn literally in two.
I complied. I survived. He left.
Flash forward to that day a week or so after Trump’s comments became news.
Shocked, stunned, sickened … I realized why the comment triggered me so overwhelmingly, almost thirty years after my assault, during which I’d achieved peace and healing, or so I thought.
I realized why “grab them by the pussy” made me feel like I was having a heart attack.
Because it literally, physically happened to me.
And it was the most violent, degrading, painful, terrifying experience of my life.
Today, the man who bragged about doing this to women was named “Man of the Year” by TIME magazine. This exchange took place on a friend’s Facebook page:
There’s nothing subjective about this. Assuming his comments to Bush were true, and we have no reason to think they’re not, Trump is objectively an awful human being.
He is objectively a criminal.
He is objectively a sexual predator.
What he brags about is objectively a criminal sexual assault that’s not funny, not a joke, but is degrading and fucking painful as hell.
I know, because it happened to me, twenty-six years ago tonight.
UPDATE — 12/12/16: If anyone else is having similar problems seeing Trump’s face and being triggered, check out this Chrome extension, Make America Kittens Again. It’s not perfect, but it does replace many Trump images on the web with pictures of kittens. It’s a start.