[content warning for talk of sexual assault/rape]
Donald Trump is a sexual predator.
This statement comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the news over the past year. There was the incident where Trump was recording discussing how he wanted to “grab women by the pussy.”, the story of how he would walk in the dressing room of partially clothed pageant contestants, and the dozen women who came forward and shared stories of how they were assaulted and harassed by Trump. His first wife, Ivana, reported that he once raped her.
It’s not just that Trump has sexually assaulted and raped multiple women, he brags about it and seems to take pleasure in it. He expresses an obvious entitlement to women’s bodies, which comes as no surprise when you consider he once owned the Miss USA pageant. His entitlement is supported by people who make excuses for his behavior, brushing it off as “locker room talk”, or claiming that assault survivors are lying. A woman who accused Trump of raping her at the age of 13 was silenced by death threats.
A quick search of statistics will reveal that one in five women have reported a rape or an attempted rape, meaning thousands and thousands of survivors spent the past year watching an abuser and a rapist become the President of The United States while his victims were systematically silenced.. I’ve read multiple accounts where survivors have said Trump reminds them of their rapists and abusers. So how do you survive in a society where sexual assault has become so normalized and accepted that a man who has committed those crimes can be elected to the highest office in the land? Speaking from experience, it’s dehumanizing and re-traumatizing. It’s humiliating to turn on the TV or get on the internet and see someone who embodies some of the worst moments of your life leading the country, side by side with people claiming that what you experienced isn’t real, and having his actions swept under the rug.
I have a significant history of sexual assault and abuse. There are many things about Donald Trump that remind me of my abusive father, and discussion of Trump’s predation brought to mind an incident that happened to me when I was in college. I only recently began to deal with what happened to me, and processing a years-old incident with the image of a sexual predator glaring at me doesn’t just add insult to injury, it’s holding the wound open and refusing to let me heal.
So how do we as survivors deal with this? Our society is inherently hostile to survivors (unless we’re the “right” type of survivor and even then, it’s still pretty shitty). Combined with the fact that you can’t force people to behave in a certain manner and some people can’t take no for an answer, ultimately it’s up to us to take care of ourselves.
I constantly check on myself and evaluate how I’m handling things. I ask myself questions like: Is it safe to engage in this conversation or talk to this person? Are there tools that can help me navigate the world better? Do I need to ask for help or do some self care? Self awareness is key. Know which topics and people are safe and which ones are off limits. Boundaries can change a lot depending on what your situation is, which is okay. When in doubt, take a step back.
Sometimes you just have to cut people off and walk away. I have multiple abusers on blocked on Facebook. I unfriended friends who voted for Trump and have hidden several people from my news feed because they share upsetting content. I haven’t spoken to my dad in a year and a half and have no immediate plans to do so. I wanted them to change so badly, to see my side of things and to realize how they were hurting me and the people around them. But there came a point where I realized that these people were not going to change and that’s something I had to accept. I didn’t like it, but I accepted it. When it gets to that point, the only option is kick them to the curb. This can be difficult, but in the long run it’s healthier and less exhausting.
What I’ve laid out here is some general ideas that have helped me, but every person and every survivor is different, so your ways of coping and moving about the world are going to entirely depend on your circumstances. There are things other survivors do that I could never do because of my specific history, and vice versa.
Surviving in a society that gives so much leniency to dangerous men will erode your soul until there’s almost nothing left. Having the worst moments of your life open to mockery is humiliating. The callousness of people will piss you off. Being a survivor often means crying and spitting nails in the same day. But remember that you are valued and you are worth the effort, even if all your effort went into just getting through the day.