Gabriel and I live in rural Minnesota with our two kids–farm country. We are not surprisingly surrounded by many Trump supporters. We have both been Hillary Rodham Clinton fans for years and have excitedly followed her campaign. I made small donations to her cause a few times after a glass of wine and an extra patriotic West Wing episode, but other than that, I didn’t do much else. But Gabriel spent the last several months engaging in difficult and quite honestly, uncomfortable conversations with people who planned to support Trump. He would bring it up at the dinner table. I would grit my teeth and awkwardly attempt to change the subject. I would roll my eyes when he asked me to edit a thoughtful and well researched comment he spent fifteen minutes crafting in order to respond to an offensive article posted on FaceBook. It drove me nuts.
“You’re just going to upset people!”
“That’s not going to change anyone’s mind!”
“This is a waste of time, babe.”
I was a total nay-sayer. I discouraged his passionate political outbursts and they sometimes out-right annoyed me.
Finally, it was the morning of November 8th, and I was honestly glad all the the election talk was about to be over. Gabriel and I excitedly discussed our country’s bright future over our morning coffees. “How empowering it will be to have a ‘Madame President’!” I tearfully told Theo that Hillary Rodham Clinton was going to be our first female President. He cheered, “Yay! Hillary Clinton!” like a good democrat’s son and contentedly went back to eating his yogurt. Gabriel went early to cast his vote (I had sent in an absentee ballot for Ohio) and we nervously spent the day wondering when exit polls would start to become significant.
That evening I poured some wine, turned on The Crown and continued my embroidery as if it were any other night. Gabriel couldn’t tear his eyes away from his computer–checking exit polls, reading predictions. We were excited but thought the outcome was obvious. Hillary Rodham Clinton was going to become our President.
“Oh my gosh, babe. Turn that off. We need to start watching the news.” The edge in Gabriel’s voice made me start.
“What!? What is it?”
“She’s not winning.” Gabriel swallowed and switched The Crown to CNN Live Election Results. We watched in horror as one state after another turned red. Tears slid unchecked down my cheeks as the flabbergasted newscasters reported on her continuingly narrowing odds of winning.
We turned the computer off around midnight and went to bed. Defeated, deflated, disgusted.
I ignorantly assumed all of the Trump support I heard flying around on social media was fringe. I thought surely it was only a few rogue Republicans with neo-natzi tattoos and Confederate flags in their truck windows that supported Trump. I was ignorant and apathetic. I misjudged them. I mean, their own party leaders had denounced Trump! But I was wrong.
Theo woke up the morning of November 9th at four am. He was sad and grumpy. So were we. None of us could go back to sleep. Gabriel went to check the election results with a small hope that maybe something crazy had happened in the last four hours and Hillary really would be the 45th President. I snuggled our babies in bed. I called down the stairs, “Was he really elected?”
There was a long pause. “Yes.”
More tears fell and I hugged my kids close, grateful they were too young to understand what this meant. America had elected a President that called Mexicans rapists, judged women by their boob size, mocked people with disabilities, supported stop-and-frisk and admitted to sexual assault. This was the man we chose to represent our interests. But he doesn’t represent my interests. The morning of November 9th–I felt scared. My President grabbed women by the pussy whenever he felt like it because he was a “star.” Under his example and leadership, my daughter and I weren’t respected. We weren’t safe.
I continued to cry off and on that day while listening to NPR discuss the results of the election. Theo asked to play outside and I found myself afraid to go into the yard. I felt like I used to feel two years ago when I was newly a rape survivor and PTSD made leaving my own bed scary. I had flashbacks to the rape, and I felt weak.
The man who raped me used the word “pussy” several times in the attack, making that word a particularly potent trigger for me. News outlets played the tape of our President Elect using that word over and over again. I felt disempowered and small. I was as shocked by this sudden return of PTSD as I was by the election results. The election of Donald Trump was just another reminder that our culture doesn’t prioritize the safety of women and other marginalized communities.
Ever since the election I have felt myself slide back into old habits and feelings of insecurity and hypervigilance. At first, I felt silly and dramatic for “back-sliding” in my healing process as a rape survivor, but I now realize that my feelings of fear are justified. I don’t know what the presidency of Donald Trump will bring, but I know his campaign bred hate, intolerance and fear. It is fair to assume that his time in office will only usher in more hate, intolerance and fear. So if you’re a rape survivor, a minority, a refugee, disabled, a member of the LGBTQ community or basically not a white male cisgendered person–it’s okay to be scared. Don’t feel silly or dumb if you’re suddenly sleeping with the lights on again. Me too. If you’re feeling sad or angry or scared, it’s okay. Me too. If you feel like backing away from the mean world and hiding in a corner under a thick blanket with hot chocolate and a fantasy novel–don’t worry. Me too.
I now regret all of the discouraging words I spoke to Gabriel as he voiced his opinions loudly in opposition of Trump. I regret shying away from political conversations in order to avoid confrontation. I played my part in the election of this harmful man by doing nothing. But the world doesn’t end here. I remember feeling like the world ended when I was raped. But it didn’t. There was work to be done, and healing to fight for. Now there is work to be done and healing to fight for as a nation. But if you feel sad and scared, my friends, don’t feel alone. I’m with you.