Anger isn’t an emotion that often sticks around in my life. I have a somewhat annoying inability to hold a grudge against anyone, even when it’s warranted. But right now, I’m mad as hell.
As we all know at this point, a video of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was released last Friday. I’ve spoken out against this racist, xenophobic, misogynistic joke of a nominee ever since he first announced his candidacy, but this new information struck me on a deeply personal level. I was glued to my phone throughout the weekend, reading feminist think pieces and growing increasingly horrified as more rape accusations came forward about a man that 43% of the population still wants to elect as the leader of our country.
I didn’t expect all of this to affect me the way it has. I thought I’d gotten over what happened to me 7 years ago, placed it away in a vault that never needed to be opened. Even without justice, I’ve found peace within myself. Why would I ever want to revisit that dark period of time in my life?
But then my roommate came home one night fired up about a documentary on Netflix that features a prominent rape case from her rival high school growing up. We watched Audrie & Daisy with tears in our eyes, nodding along all-too-knowingly with the victims’ stories of shame, guilt, and trivialization. A week later, the Trump video was released and sparked a national conversation about sexual assault.
We are living in a full-blown rape culture.
There’s no way to ignore it. As much as I’d like to forget this ever happened to me, everything is screaming in my face to be an advocate of this issue. The fact that there is still the possibility of sending a rapist to the Oval Office shows me that this is a vault that I NEED to reopen until sexual violence against women is taken seriously and justice is served.
It happened the summer after my sophomore year of college. I was driving myself back to Minnesota from Chicago and decided to break up the trip with a stop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to visit my friend Parker for the night. It seemed only necessary since I was getting ready to leave the country for an entire year on two separate study abroad trips.
We debated going out, but decided to keep partying at the house as more friends joined us. There was a small group of about 12 people there – most of whom I’d met while visiting the year before. At no point did I feel unsafe. I was in the comfort of my best friend’s house, surrounded by people I’d already met.
There were a few new faces, but everyone seemed perfectly lovely. I was especially hitting it off with one of the boys that lived there – let’s call him Dan*. I made brief conversation with the one other guest I’d never met in passing, but he didn’t leave much of an impression.
The party went on like most college parties do – rounds of King’s Cup, some casual marijuana smoking, and light flirtation between guests. I don’t remember drinking more heavily than usual, but maybe the games or our lack of a real dinner got the best of me.
In any case, I don’t remember going up to Dan’s room, but certainly know I was interested and consented in doing so. We made out for a little while before I passed out and he went back downstairs to rejoin the party.
He came up to check on me a bit later and found his door locked. “How could she have locked it? She was passed out cold,” he said to Parker as they knocked repeatedly. When no one responded, they went downstairs to grab a spare key to the room.
Upon their return, the door was miraculously unlocked and there I was, still passed out in the state Dan left me. It seemed a little curious, but everyone was drunk and knocked off themselves not long after.
I woke up the following morning in wet sheets, underwear off, but dress still on. I saw a condom wrapper next to the bed and Dan fast asleep on the couch to my left. Mortified, I grabbed my stuff and slipped out before anyone else woke up.
It took me days to answer Parker’s calls. He’d left countless messages and texts, but I figured he was just going to berate me for my drunkenness – something I wasn’t ready to relive. Dan had checked in with me to explain what had gone down between us – nothing more than making out – so I continued to dodge the other messages.
When I finally got the balls to call back, we both broke down in tears as Parker recounted what really happened. How one of the other boys at the party came into the room after Dan left and locked the door behind him. How they found a condom in the trashcan, my underwear on the floor, and a note that read, “Fucked her better than he could.”
The police showed up a few days later to investigate and collect evidence. It wasn’t difficult to figure out who did it – the son-of-a-bitch had the nerve to sign the note with his name: Josh. The quiet fly on the wall I hadn’t shared more than 5 words with in that passing in the hallway.
Apparently that wasn’t evidence enough to do anything about it on the spot, nor was his confession a few days later when the boys confronted him in the hall at school and pressured him to tell them what happened.
His response: “If anybody did anything to her, I guess it was me.”
Instead of living up my last few weeks in the US with friends and family, I was in and out of the hospital accumulating evidence for my rape kit and clocking hours on the phone with the detective assigned to my case. But like the other 3,482 untested rape kits in the state of Minnesota, mine is still sitting on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust and losing any shred of usable DNA.
Over time, any action towards justice fizzled away. I was living in Australia, then England, and keeping up long distance phone calls with the detective was not only a pain in my ass, but also a painful reminder that a stranger had been inside me without my consent. I was completely unconscious when this dude decided to fuck my lifeless body, so I just did my best to push it to the back of my mind.
Even referring to the incident as rape made me feel sick to my stomach. The word is so ugly, shameful, and terrifying. I never wanted to dwell on it too long or subject myself to the feelings of helplessness that go along with being a victim of sexual assault.
But what about the girls that had to live through these attacks? The ones that remember every painstaking detail of a man forcing himself between their legs?
We live in a society that tells men this behavior is normal. That the punishment for such a heinous crime is serving 3 months of a 6-month jail stint. That they can still make it to the bitter end in an election to be the president of the United States. We go as far as to make excuses for these monsters, saying, “Oh, it’s just boys being boys. Regular locker room banter, you know? He was drunk and his judgement wasn’t clear. It doesn’t reflect who he really is.”
This election is making it difficult to believe in the good in people. It’s scary to realize how much of our population subscribes to Trump’s brand of xenophobia, discrimination, and misogyny. He’s capitalizing on our fear of the other, deflecting attention from his own wrongdoings with cries of terrorism and corruption rather than owning up to his mistakes or showing any remorse for his slander against every minority in America and beyond.
Please try to see outside of yourself and get out to the polls this November. Look onto your fellow Americans with love and compassion instead of fear and hatred. We have the power to be such a great nation, but let’s start with some simple human decency first.
To find out if you’re still eligible for voter registration, visit vote.gov. It’s not too late in some states! Let’s make 0ur voices heard and save our country from regressing back to a time when America was great only for privileged white men. We’re so much stronger when we work together, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Please remember that Donald Trump has run his entire campaign with opposition to those ideals. #imwithher
*Name changed to protect the innocent.