What I want you to know about being a sexual assault survivor during this election cycle

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is anonymous.

Over a decade ago my neck was sprained by "locker room talk." I developed an eating disorder that summer. I switched colleges multiple times before graduating. I didn’t have the typical PTSD symptoms of avoiding thoughts, feelings and situations that may trigger a full recall and experience of the assault. Instead, I ran towards the roar. I accepted being labeled impulsive because I didn't want to justify or explain my brain. I was determined to not be changed by what happened to me. Jumpiness, irritability, struggle between hyperfocus and low-energy became part of my personality.

As the years went by I dove into therapy, took medications as needed. I weaned off the different anti-depressants I have taken for years, and embraced raising my kids with the knowledge I earned the hard way. I felt pieced back together, mostly.

Until all of that progress was undone when I logged into social media on Saturday, October 8th.

For the past 72 hours I’ve seen family friends, church leaders, girlfriends, -all Christian women I’d consider friends, even some whom I had confided my assault to... dismiss Donald Trump's braggadocio as "locker room talk".

When I hear them say Trump’s “11-year-old words” don’t matter because of Bill Clinton’s allegations, I hear that sexual assault doesn’t matter. That women like me don’t matter.

When I hear over and over again about Clinton Crimes, but Trump’s stories are brushed off with “some women like sleeping with powerful men to get to the top”, I am hearing that not all victims are equal. I hear that wrong is situational, not absolute.

When I hear people say 90% of men talk like this, I don’t want to be around men anymore. If 90% of them are talking like this, why would I go into a meeting with any of them? They’re obviously not taking me seriously, they’re evaluating me for their next move.

When I hear that Trump’s “Words” aren’t about consent, because these women wanted it, I open up the closed door to thoughts of self-doubt, ruminating on my experience. What did I do wrong? What did I do to make this happen? How could I have stopped this? All the reasons my sexual assault was my fault. All that money in therapy down the drain…

When I see that you believe America has no right to judge because 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Grey were read by someone… I hear that enjoying sex, enjoying any kink means you should expect to be hurt; you’re “asking for it.”

When I hear public figures condemn Trump’s “locker room talk” because they have wives, daughters and mothers… I understand that women are valued by their relation to men and not that they are human beings who don’t deserve to have their genitals grabbed by a powerful, rich man.

When I hear “America, you have no right to judge.” “America, we had this coming.” I wonder if I had it coming? Why were my rights violated?

When I see the same exact people who were furious that Brock Turner was only sentenced to 3 months in jail, elevate Donald Trump to the Presidency because no one prosecuted him, I wonder if my experience means less because no one went to jail.

This dismissal of sexual assault reopens wounds in my mind and body.

When I ask why they’re condoning sexual assault, they insist Trump didn’t assault anyone. When I hear the definition of sexual assault revised to fit a narrative, I don’t trust anyone. The world feels unstable.

If people would say “Yes, Trump did bad things, he shouldn’t have done it, and yet I believe he’s the right choice for me.” I wouldn’t be hurting. When I hear people insist sexual assault isn’t a crime and consent isn’t an issue, I feel anxious and unsafe.

When I hear you justify sexual assault, the world feels less safe because you are empowering others to hold and promote the same views.

When you tell me this is “locker room talk” I wonder why you have sat by and didn’t call the police.

There is a war on women and it’s a civil war. I cannot believe my sexual assault is being discounted by people I trusted and admired in an effort for Trump voters to validate their vote to themselves.

By all means, I want people to vote their conscience. If the only way to do so is by disassembling the meaning of consent and criminal activity, perhaps your conscience is telling you something.

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