A Woman’s Right to Be Safe Are Not a “Distraction”

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In a video released about his demeaning statements toward women, Trump called this issue a “distraction” from real issues facing our country. Right now, I have a feeling on November 8th women are going to rise up and say our right to live a life free from assault and to be seen as human beings are not a “distraction.” Because me and a lot of other woman I know are sick and tired of men like Trump objectifying us. Warnings below for discussions of sexual harassment, rape and assault.

The sad thing is I don’t know of any woman who has not lived a life free from this objectification. Most women have faced sexual harassment and assault in some form or another. I was sexually assaulted in the break room of the grocery store I worked at in college. I got away before too much happened, but coming forward and reporting the incident was terrifying, and the event sent me into a bit of depression. I was never able to feel safe working there again.

My sister was nearly gang raped at school while running an errand for a teacher. She went through the gym, someone turned the lights out and a boy yelled, “grab her!” Next thing she knew several people grabbed her, but she managed to escape. She was so rattled she didn’t tell anyone and I only learned about what happened when we were adults.

My mom was repeatedly raped by her boss at work.

And when you start talking to women about the subject the stories come in. Friends who have been raped. Friends who have endured sexual harassment at work or school. Friends who were assaulted at a trusted friend’s home, or at a bar. Friends who were attacked and barely escaped being raped. One of my friends was so ashamed after having just barely gotten away from an attack that she didn’t even try to retrieve her new, expensive cell phone that left at the apartment she had fled from.

As a counselor who has worked with trauma and domestic violence, I have held hands with way too many women as they cried and related how they were violated and the detrimental affect it has on their life. Women now struggling with substance use and depression related to their assaults.

And then there are the “smaller” incidents. I was an early bloomer and in junior high boys would grab my breasts or comment on how big they were as I passed by. There’s the fear that happens when I go for a walk and men catcall me from cars.One time I was walking with my son and I was catcalled. I was furious that it happened to me in front of him!

When it happens, I am afraid, I feel helpless, and I am angry. The message I receive is “how dare you go out of the house? Leaving the house and walking in public is permission for us to dehumanize and assault you!”

When I go for walks and am catcalled, I start to wonder what would happen if I were abducted and raped and murdered. Would people say I deserved it for what I was wearing? For walking alone? For walking alone at night?

The fact that I even have those worries is evidence that society is fucked up on this issue.

There was the time a man followed my sister and I home from the park when I was 10 and she was 8 and exposed himself to us and started to chase us. There was the time when I was 13 and I was stalked by a man driving a blue car every time I left to go roller blading (which was my passion as a teenager, it was how I reduced my stress). He got more daring and eventually exposed himself to me and tried to coax me into his car.

I eventually told my parents and I wasn’t allowed to leave the house alone for several months afterwords. Not because I did something wrong, but because some asshat couldn’t stop stalking and harassing me! I was furious that my freedom was curtailed because someone else had done something wrong! It was the height of in justice for me!

Schools should be a safe place for girls and women. Work should be a safe place for girls and women. Neighborhoods and parks should be safe places for girls and woman. But when you encounter harassment, the message is “you aren’t safe, and it’s your own fault for stepping into public. It’s a man’s world, and you are here to satisfy our desires.”

This affects pretty much every woman. This affects women who work, women who go to school, women who interact in society. This affects our economy, when women are having to deal with the emotional toll of unwanted sexual advances rather than focus on their work, yes, it affects our economy.

But beyond that, do we want to be a nation that sees how we treat half of the population as a “distraction?” This is not a side issue! This affects the daily life of women everywhere! Women are people, not objects to be grabbed, rated, and consumed for Trump’s (or any other man’s) approval (and there is a long record of Trump doing all of those things in the 10 years since this tape was made).

And we women are sick of dealing with it.

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