I made my decision to participate in San Francisco’s edition of the Women’s March on Washington long before it existed. Months before a group of women turned an idea into an international movement, and even before Hillary Clinton lost the electoral vote, something happened to me that would forever change my worldview.
I was summoned for jury duty.
Having never served on jury duty before, I was excited. After the fourth hour of watching David Blaine’s documentary play on a loop over the waiting room monitor, I realized that excitement had been wildly misguided.
Eventually I was assigned to a case and told that the trial would be a criminal case with charges related to sexual assault. The next day, I was in the first wave of people selected for voir dire questioning. The judge explained that voir dire is the process in which potential jurors are asked questions in order to expose any biases that might arise in a particular case. One by one, I listened as a row of strangers spoke about friends, family members and colleagues who had been victims of sexual assault. Finally, the mic was handed to me.
Do you know anyone in law enforcement? Yes. Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? No. Do you understand that burden of proof rests entirely on the prosecutor and are you comfortable with that? Yes.
Have you, or has anyone you know, ever been the victim of sexual assault?
I had just watched juror after juror answer this question. Since I knew that question would get to me eventually, I had prepared exactly what I was going to say. In a calm, tempered voice, I would explain how I was walking around San Francisco with a group of friends. I would explain how a man who doesn’t know me watched and waited until I was in the back of the group. I would explain how he ran up behind me, forced his hand up the back of my dress and grabbed me.
I would leave out what came after, how it felt like someone had opened my chest and placed something black and rotten inside of me. I would not mention the strange sensation of guilt I felt, like I was dirty, like somehow I might have been at fault. I would not put into words what it felt like to lose ownership of your own body just because someone else decided that he wanted it too.
My brain told my mouth exactly what to say and not say. But my mouth did not say anything at all. I looked down to see that the mic was shaking and I realized that I was crying.
I wish I could say that this is so unlike me, because I’m a person who never cries, but that would not be true. On November 9th, I gave the average baby a run for his or her money. I cried when I woke up. I cried at my office. For a whole week, I cried every time the song America by Simon and Garfunkel came on the radio. Which was often, because the radio was my iPhone and I was playing that song on repeat.
But crying in front of a judge, in a room filled with 70 potential jurors, two sets of attorneys, a court stenographer and a bailiff was certainly a new experience. I cried for myself, because this was the first time I had ever spoken about what happened to me. I cried for all of the women in our country who have had so much worse happen to them.
Instead of everything I had planned to say, I said “yes.”
The judge asked a few follow-up questions. Through an unstable voice, I explained to a room full of strangers what it feels like to be a woman in the scenario that Donald Trump so eagerly bragged about to Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus in 2005.
It wasn’t crying in front of a courtroom that impacted me so profoundly. It was what happened after. After handing the mic off to the next chair, the man sitting next to me leaned over to whisper in my ear. He told me how sorry he was that someone had done that to me. Later that day, a woman I didn’t know sought. me out in the hallway to ask me if I was ok.
Those two people did not change what had already happened. They did not try to erase unhappy events or re-write history. They just listened, and then after listening they took a small step of action. They made me feel that I was not alone.
That moment, I decided that when the opportunity came for me to do what those two people did for me that day, that I was going to take it.
I will not march to change the past. I will not march to demand a recount of an election that was compromised by Russians or even to taunt Donald Trump with the fact that Hillary Clinton received 2,864,974 more votes than he did.
I will march because I know what it means to watch as a man demeans your identity and experiences, only to be rewarded with the highest office in our country. I will march because countless others who had their identities and experiences demeaned by this same man watched him face no repercussions for his actions or words.
I will never experience. what it is like for so many groups of people in America, but I have listened and am listening. And on Saturday, January 21st, 2017, I will march so that they can see firsthand that they are not alone.
Together, we will work to keep a man accountable in the way that on November 8th, this nation did not. Losing an election does not mean that we must sit out and watch idly as the next four years of this new administration pass by. In fact, it demands the opposite. With no seat at the table, we will clear a space for ourselves on the streets.