Last Friday night, Donald Trump made the news for something that he said. The fact that he said something shocking was not surprising. We, as a nation, have grown numb to his outbursts. I brushed it off as just another tirade. But, as the memes began and the reactions were posted, I noticed something different about this particular Trump-moment. This time, unlike other times, he was affecting me. When he talked about immigrants, about homosexuals, about Muslims and Mexicans, I was outraged, but I was able to voice my outrage and I was able to set it aside. I didn’t feel it on a personal level at the time. But I do now.

Around Sunday, I realized that my stomach had been hurting for days. I realized that my shoulders and neck ached from my muscles binding into knots. I realized that I had had a low-grade headache for more than 24 hours. And then it struck me. My physical symptoms were manifestations of my emotional state. I was being triggered by Trump.

Trump’s words, and the words of his supporters, were bringing me back to my own sexual assault almost a decade ago. And, I soon realized that I was not alone. Across the weekend, I noticed countless facebook posts alluding to feelings of rage as the ugliness of rape culture reared its ugly head. Unsolicited, I had two ex-students who messaged me because they needed to vent some of their feelings and they thought I might be an empathetic audience. I’m not sure what was affecting us more, Trump’s words or the words of his supporters that followed.

It’s just locker-room talk: boys will be boys.

Not only does this rationalization attempt to sugar-coat the violence in Trump’s words, but it also attempts to normalize rape culture. And men should be just as insulted as women when they are portrayed in this way. One of my ex-students, a woman in her late twenties now, sent me this message:

The mind is a brilliant thing. It has the ability to protect us from things we, in our conscious selves, don’t want to face. I have been on the verge of a major panic attack for the last week. I could not understand why. Then it hit me. The calendar reminded me that today is the 13th “rapiversary.” This year is particularly hard given the tapes that have surfaced with Trump and Billy Bush. It suddenly dawned on me.

Crazy thing is, I didn’t report my rape because it was the day of the homecoming football game and I didn’t want to be blamed if we lost to Rockford because of me snitching on 3 football players. And also because I skipped Biology class, so I felt it was my fault. Had I been in class, it would not have happened. My BFF at the time was there and they made her watch. She did go to the office and tell. The police were called and when they called me out of History class, I told them she didn’t know what she was talking about, that it wasn’t true. I pleaded for them to drop it and leave it alone.

They knew I was lying, but I could not take the chance of my parents finding out. I felt they would be more upset about my skipping class. I was allowed to go home. Apparently my cheer uniform was covered in evidence. I went home, showered, laundered my uniform, and then dealt with it the way I dealt with everything at that time-I purged. I told myself that would “fix it.” I then returned to school, and cheered for those guys at the game that night.

I couldn’t tell anyone. When your step-father had done the same to you for years, you just learn to deal with it.

And so, when Mister Trump made his vile statement, and in turn claimed it was just boys being boys and that it was nothing more than locker-room talk, imagine the effect that had on this young woman. Imagine hearing men (and women) across America telling you that this kind of talk is heard everyday in male locker rooms. What message would that send you?

Women read 50 Shades of Grey, why are they making such a big deal out of this?

To equate sexual assault with this fictional book and movie is not only insulting, but it is also not accurate. The book spends the first several chapters setting up the parameters of the couple’s sexual relationship. Included in those chapters are detailed descriptions of the female character signing multiple consent forms. Consent. Something Mr. Trump, and his apologists, seem to know nothing about. To compare Trump’s vile admission to this fictional relationship is not only ridiculous, it is harmful.

I have always been a part of the #NeverTrump group. Everyone is running around outraged and feigning shock. I am disgusted but not shocked. In order to be shocked, things have to be different than what you perceive them to be. I could “suss out” this side to Trump because I was raised by a Trump. 

The only difference between Trump and my Step-dad, is the fact that Trump started on third base, whilst my father built himself from the ground up. I was raised by a man that felt his success entitled him to more than material items. I was raised by a man who saw everything, even his trophy wife and children as his prize for climbing the ladder. That entitlement meant that you were, for all intents and purposes, his property. If you defended yourself against his verbal tirades when he called you stupid, you were punished. If you shed a tear while he tapped your nose with his index finger while yelling in your face, you were weak and deserved whatever came next. If you hid beneath the bed when you heard the ominous creak of the door knob to your room at night, you were a coward. 

If you were anything but genuflect-style grateful, you were an abhorrence. You should be thanking the Celestial heavens that he allows you to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and you should realize how blessed you are to be in his orbit. Six years ago, I secretly packed my car and drove 15 hours to Maine to escape my own “planet Trump.”trump-for-president

You’re just over-reacting. Bill Clinton was accused of rape as well. And Hillary laughed at a rape victim’s court hearing.

Not only is the above statement false and misleading, but it sends the message that rape is normal. It defends Trump’s sexual misdeeds by claiming that all males are, at their basest instincts, programmed to rape. Eric Trump himself said that in ‘alpha males’ like his father, this talk is to be expected. And there are millions of girls out there who heard that message loud and clear. Millions. One in five is the number reported. But what about all of those who never report or admit to what happened to them? What about all of those who have been raised to believe that this behavior is normal and to be expected?

As a child I was sexually assaulted and I didn’t tell my parents until a couple years ago (after too many beers). I still get uncomfortable when I’m alone with men who resemble my stepfather (white trash, uneducated type). I never told people when I was younger because for some reason I thought my body and privacy didn’t matter- as if my body was supposed to be available to men at all times. I never really saw myself as having control- like I was made to be the object of male satisfaction. It was very difficult for me to be intimate with men- I would mentally disengage once things turned physical.

The way Trump talks about getting to do whatever he wants to women has brought up a lot of residual feelings, and has caused me to lash out at the men in my life. I see them all as closeted predators, waiting for a vulnerable moment to attack. Trump’s comments reinforced that fear and distrust of men that had been in me so long. So back to your original question- what has it done to women? Traumatized us? Brought back memories of experiences that many women share?  It’s brought up a lot of weirdness in my life! I can only imagine what his victory would look like.

Women just need to get a thicker skin. If you are harassed at work, find a new job. Strong, powerful women don’t allow sexual harassment to occur.

These words are attributed to Eric Trump, Donald’s son. He knows nothing of what true strength is. He knows nothing of the battle that women must face and fight to be heard in this society. Below is a friend of mine trying to get another woman to understand rape-culture and the reality of how it affects so many girls and women.

After a long day of being locked away in a treatment room, I emerged last night to learn that sexual assault is okay if you are famous. I learned that my pussy is ripe for the grabbing if you are famous. Do NOT excuse it as locker room banter, boys will be boys, or what men say in private. 1) NO EXCUSE  2)I t insults all the men who do not think, talk or act this way. 3) It perpetuates the culture. A vote for this man is a vote against all women. A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for this man.

When the woman who saw this initial post (on facebook) scolded the writer for using vile language, the author responded with:

I know you want this life to not have taken my innocence, to not make me hard. It has not made me hard, but sometimes I have to be hard. I have survived things I will not go into here. I stand by my message. It is not vulgar, the use of words is not vulgar. They are the expression of my feelings in reaction to that video. That is not vulgar. If it is shocking, it was meant to be. It was shocking to hear the words out of his mouth. I do not need to be shamed for my choice of words. I am sorry if it offended you, but this talk is pervasive in our culture. Nothing changes if we don’t face it.  I am no longer an 8 year old girl. I am a 38 year old woman who has lived a lifetime facing this culture and holding my head high. I have survived this culture. I stand by my words.

Can you imagine how it felt to her? To put her truth out there. To speak up about what happened to her. And then to be shut down by a woman telling her that she should ‘watch her mouth’ and that her words were not ‘lady like.’ The pain she suffered, the lasting ramifications of the trauma she experienced was ignored. She was, essentially, told not to bring it up. To be quiet about it. A message millions of rape survivors have heard time and time again.

When you’re a star, you can do anything. You can get away with anything.

Imagine the message being sent to girls through this line. If men are rich enough, if they are famous enough, if they are powerful enough, you (and your body) do not matter. You are fair game.

I think for me, it is the thought of the powerful, wealthy man having the last laugh. I always had this image of me becoming successful and going back home and giving my step-father an epic take-down speech. Then I look up, and it seems like his type are being rewarded. What people don’t understand is that stance IS the fundamental issue.

I don’t think people are getting that when they say things like that, they are essentially saying men are hardwired for that, and if a man has a spasm, just pray you aren’t in close proximity. If it were phrased like that, people would be outraged. What would really make them rephrase, is if you tie to their passion: power. Because for the longest time, the argument about why women can’t be in politics is temperament. Men were seen as steady and even keeled. Women were emotional and unstable. What is more unstable than a man that cannot control his pocket pistol? If that were the case, who would ever trust a man to run a lemonade stand, let alone the country.

How can women, and men of good conscience, stomach being governed by a man who feels he has the right to demean, to touch and to assault any woman he likes based solely on his position of power? And, to those who plan to vote for Trump because ‘at least he is not Hillary,” how can you rationalize this thinking? What would you say to women like the one above?

But the religious right supports Trump. Pat Robinson says he is just acting macho. Ralph Reed says it’s just words from 10 years ago. James Dobson excuses Trump by calling him a ‘baby christian’ who needs to grow and Jerry Falwell Jr. likens Trump to his father.trump-and-the-religious-right

When the church stands behind a man who publicly brags about sexually assaulting women, you live in a rape culture. When they excuse the behavior by claiming that all men act this way, it is just their base instinct, you live in a rape culture. When they excuse such behavior by pointing to other men and their behaviors and claiming they are worse, you live in a rape culture.

I am sitting here in the space of deep sadness and anger with wounds being reopened, scabs ripped off, hopefully to heal once more, this time with less scarring and pain. As a woman, born in the 50’s, growing up in the 60’s, before moms or dads talked to their children about sex, much less sexual predators, I had many experiences of being fondled and groped by men.  This past weekend, after reading many blogs about other women’s experiences and responses to those blogs, I see this is a very common experience. I had anecdotal evidence of this previously, but never verified like it was after Friday.

My earliest memory of this type of abhorrent behavior happened when I must have been 4 or 5 with a teenage son of friends of my parents.  At the age of 11 I remember gruffly being pulled into the janitor’s closed at my grade school and being groped by the janitor.  But you see by that time, I knew how to protect myself because since the age of about 8 or 9, a member of the family, (an uncle by marriage) had been regularly fondling and groping me, under extreme threats of punishment and shame if I told.  This went on until about the age of 12 when I learned how never to be alone with him.  It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I was able to get past my fear and shame and tell my parents what had happened.  You see I had a younger sister and nieces that I wanted to protect.  

There were a few cases in my dating years that boys and men tried to force themselves on me, expecting me to comply, even after saying no many times.  In one of those cases I had to physically hurt them to get them to stop.  As I entered the workforce, I naively thought, I am in an adult world now, this will stop.  I had two bosses that hit on me, one even exposing himself to me.  I had several clients, when I was a sales representative, who told me the only way they would give me their business was if I slept with them. As I sat and thought about all these instances of sexual predation in my life I realized that there was a common thread running through all my experiences.  That common thread is that all those men felt that they held the power.  Whether it was in age, status or size, they held the power.I am grateful I went through in-depth counseling to deal with the issues that arise when subjected to this type of abuse, especially as a child.  

I went through most of my adult life with the attitude of that’s how men are or that’s just how it is.  Now in my wiser years I know that is not how most men are.  Our society however, still carries that culture of misogyny which is interlaced with the paternalistic approach in all our institutions. Women and men are still dealing with the effect of those who believe that women are second class citizens, who are to be used when and how they are desired.What is being lost with the misogynist culture is the beauty, power and grace of feminine values.  What is being lost is the partnership between masculine and feminine values interwoven with an emotional intelligence more pronounced in the feminine. A true partnership between the masculine and feminine powers could be transformative for the world and all its’ inhabitants.  

Even now, I am reluctant to speak of this in fear of hearing, it’s only locker room talk, or it’s no big deal, you know men.  Or you must have done something to deserve being treated this way. I feel that the release of the tapes this past weekend calls for finally standing up and saying look at what we are doing, look at what we are losing, look at the pain and suffering being inflicted. Now is our opportunity to wake up, men and women, and start to change the culture of misogyny. 

The woman who wrote the above blog is a minister for Wisdom Circle Ministries.  I wonder how it affects her, seeing so-called ‘men of God’ defending Trump and continuing to support him, even in the face of so much ugliness.

If he was really that bad, why didn’t these women say anything sooner? Why are they just now speaking up?

When I was in college, I read the book The Color Purple and the line “a girl-child ain’t safe in a world full of mens” struck me to my core. One of my best friends in school was consistently raped from the age of 11 until the age of 18 by her father, Everyone in the town knew it. The father had 3 daughters. He raped them all. And no one did a thing about it. When the mother caught the father, the girl was brought to my house to stay a few days. The elders in the church made the dad and his daughters and wife stand in front of the church and apologize. No one pressed charges. No one rescued the girls from that home.

This was my first experience with sexual assault. My second was at a church camp, in the middle of a lake. An older boy swam out to me and put his hands between my legs, kept them there, told me if I told anyone he would hurt me. I never told. What good would it do when you see the elders of a church protecting a man who habitually raped his own daughters?

Decades later, at the age of 33, I was at a hotel bar in Chicago. Two men, possibly more, saw I was alone and drugged my drink. (Something they had done before, as they were known to target convention hotels where women were traveling alone.) I don’t remember much of the attack, only flashes, due to the amnesiac effects of the drug. But I remember enough to know it was violent, to know it was videotaped and to know I was in trouble.

I was found drugged and disoriented in a hotel hallway hours later. No one helped me. After hours, I found my hotel room. I tried to explain to my traveling companion what happened to me, but I was disoriented and not making sense. I was put into a car and driven home.

I took a shower. It took me 8 hours to tell my husband.

I was taken to the ER. I was scolded for showering. A rape kit was done, but all evidence was gone. The drug was no longer in my system.

I reported the crime to the Chicago Police Department. They asked me to come in for an interview. I was paraded past male officers and taken to the back of the precinct. Over the next few hours, I was asked to drop the case. I was told, ‘you got in over your head” and ‘you had too much to drink’ and ‘you were seen at the bar talking with other men and you were married. Are you sure you want this to come out’ and ‘your blouse was awfully low cut’ and ‘we have a lot of important cases we have to get to; this case is just going to hold us upand ‘you waited too long to report this.’

I was shown mug shots of the perpetrators from 10 years back. They knew who the guys were, they had a rap-sheet a mile long. They had left the hotel and paid their bill with a stolen credit card and were on their way back to Idaho where they lived.  I could not pick the men out based on their decades old pictures. I was told, again, to allow them to close the case.

The case remains open to this day. It is filed under Lisa VanZegeren

Think about the women you know in your life. How have they been over the last week? If they are like me, or the other women who offered their stories for this blog, it has been a rough patch for them. Trump’s voice is the voice of their attackers, of their step-fathers and fathers and preachers and policemen and women who have excused the misbehavior of violent males for centuries. Trump’s voice is digging up their trauma.

We can no longer stay silent. I will no longer stay silent.

Rape culture will exist until we begin to speak. Loudly and clearly. Men of value, speak your truth to your sons. Show them through your actions how to treat a woman. Voice your disgust when you see a woman being mistreated. Speak up when you hear ‘locker room talk’ that demeans women. Mothers, teach your sons how to speak to a girl. How to approach her. How to love her. Teach him not to tolerate abusive language or actions toward girls.

Women, speak up, even when you know you will not be believed. Speak. Even when you know they will try to blame it on you. Speak. Even when you know they will do nothing to help you. Speak. Even when you know they will judge you for doing do. Speak. Even when they will try to shame you. Speak.

Because the next generation of girls needs you, speak.

And, most importantly, on November 8th (loudly and clearly) speak. women-voting