A Hot Mic Was in the Room Where It Happened

A former colleague of mine grew up in Chicago.  She would sometimes tell me stories about what it was like living in the city decades ago.  I remember being horrified by one story in particular- a story about walking to and from school.  Apparently, she needed to avoid shortcuts through alleyways because of the men who hung around on her route; they liked to prey on girls.  But even if she stuck to broad daylight, these men would still grab breasts, bottoms, and anything else they could get their hands on for a quick attack and run.  One thing that still makes me inwardly cringe when I think about it, is that these disgusting men would walk up to girls, including her, and grabbed their crotches.  I couldn’t fathom the sick, twisted audacity that would compel men to rob girls and young women of their sense of power, safety, and dignity.  I was appalled that no one would do anything to protect those girls, including the police.

Talk less.
Never did I think I would hear about something like this again, especially in the context of a presidential campaign.  Unless you’ve lost power from Hurricane Matthew or are over at Fox News with your fingers in your ears, yelling, “LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA,” you’ve heard or read the transcript from the vile Access Hollywood video in which Donald Trump and Billy Bush engage in locker room banter misogynistic conversation about Trump’s methods for committing sexual assault against whomever he pleases.  Before yesterday, Trump was able to get away with his misogynistic, (and racist and xenophobic and bigoted) behavior and speech because it was only alleged, as in the case with statements made by former cast and crew members from The Apprentice, or it wasn’t bad enough for major Republicans to throw up their hands and say, “I’m out!”  (“But he’s not a polished politician and speaks from the heart!”  BLORCH!)  But now it’s on tape.  It’s undeniably Trump.  And it’s an admission of repeated sexual assault.  

He’s ne’er gonna be President now!
In any other year, in any other not bizarre reality, Donald Trump would never have been the nominee, let alone be in a tight Presidential race.  A good portion of his supporters are angry, die-hard Republicans who probably feel like they have nothing to lose; everything else seems to have failed them.  Then there’s the portion who are like the drunk guy at a party screaming, Wooooooo!  Most of the politicians who have gotten behind him feel they have no choice if they want to get reelected or keep Republicans in power.  But Trump’s declaration of grabbing pussy has been enough to make the needle on the record scratch, and make them all sit up and pay attention.  GOP bigwigs met in DC last night to discuss what to do moving forward, (even though it’s too late to replace Trump on the ballot.)  Various party leaders, down-ballot candidates, and others began putting out statements ranging from the kind of condemnation you’d hear from a principal in a John Hughes movie, (Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus) to a refusal to endorse Trump any longer, (Jason Chaffetz, Barbara Comstock) to outright silence, (running mate, Mike Pence, dismissed his press pool when the news broke and later fled from reporters in silence.)  I have to say, the Republican collective clutching of pearls, followed by polite outrage, is a little hysterical to me.  “Oh my stars, (and bars!)  I can’t believe Donald Trump would say something so vulgar!”  Really?  This entire campaign he’s shown you who he is.  But there are none so blind as those who will not see.  

I’d rather be divisive, than indecisive.
Trump’s comments were repugnant and felt so violating that I felt nauseous as I fast-forwarded over the video whenever it was replayed on the news.  Yet, it’s the responses from many of Trump’s fellow Republicans which make me feel truly objectified and stripped of my power and dignity.  Anything short of a condemnation of Trump’s words AND actions, and a repudiation of Donald Trump and his candidacy, is feckless and meaningless.  It demonstrates to women in this country that elections are more important than their dignity.  It is reinforcement of rape culture at the highest level.
It is also not enough to say that Trump’s words were vile and that women should never be spoken about this way.  Trump didn’t just say that he thought about sexually assaulting women.  He claimed to have sexually assaulted women, simply because he could.  Because of CNN’s Erin Burnett, we also know that Trump wasn’t just talking a big game.  (Related, Scottie Nell Hughes can go jump up her own ass.  Also related, Ana Navarro is kickass!)  How, in the name of Zorp, can we have a president who openly admits to sexually assaulting women?  It doesn’t matter if it was 10 years ago, an excuse some supporters have used to brush off how serious this is.  It is not as though the “mistakes” he made have a shelf life and no longer affect the lives of the women he assaulted after 5, 10, 15 years have passed.  To elect a President Trump will revictimize these women, reinforcing their lack of power against such a predator.

They don’t need to know me; they don’t like you.
The call by some, e.g. Rep. Comstock, for Mike Pence to replace Donald Trump at the top of ticket infuriates me!  How the fuck does that even make sense?  Set aside the fact that the man is xenophobic, unethical, (“In a unanimous opinion, the appeals court said Gov. Pence acted illegally in accepting federal money for refugee resettlement and then refusing to use that money to aid Syrian refugees.”) homophobic, (and this….this list is not exhaustive) anti women’s rights, and the governor of a state where he might not have been reelected, as Hoosiers weren’t thrilled with him, overall.  You still have a man, who claims to be a Christian, and is so thirsty to be President that he hitched himself to Donald Trump’s wagon.  Clearly he has poor judgment and an ambition which outweighs his personal relationship with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  You have a man who lied his way through the Vice Presidential debate.  Also a man of faith, Tim Kaine’s aggravated crazy eyes led me to believe he was going to call upon God to smite Pence for breaking the 9th Commandment.  You have a man who has repeatedly refused to answer how he can square his faith with the words and actions of Donald Trump. You have a man who seems like a measured, reasonable politician in interviews and on the debate stage, but who hid from reporters, rather than denounce Donald Trump for assaulting women.  You have a man who, after taking time to collect himself and get the campaign messaging on point, still refuses to flee from sin.  From the article, referring to Trump’s debate tomorrow night, “…he looks ‘forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.'”  Are you fucking kidding me?  He has shown us what’s in his heart, repeatedly!  And no, Trump didn’t apologize.  He said he’s sorry he’s done dumb stuff, sorry if anyone was offended, but the Clintons started it!  You know, at the Vice Presidential debate, Mike Pence used the line that so many pro-lifers use: We judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.  Perhaps he should reflect on that and apply it in his own life, rather than tacitly condoning the actions of a monster.

You want a revolution? I want a revelation!
You know, my colleague and friend didn’t just suffer through her assaults and humiliation until she moved away. No, she learned to fight back.  Finally, she had had enough, as one would-be pervert discovered one day.  This soft-spoken grandmother narrowed her eyes as she recounted how she squeezed his balls and commanded, “Don’t you ever touch me again!”
In November, we women need to grab our country by the balls and say NO!  We cannot allow a predator to claim the Oval Office, nor can we ignore the behavior and words of the politicians who have continued to stand by this predator.  We reaffirm our power with each vote we cast!  Together we will say, “Fuck you, Donald Trump!  You cannot do whatever you want!”

True or false?

Trigger warning for sexual assault.

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He was tall with dark, curly hair. For some reason, he had become my drunken make out buddy at a couple of parties. The time he tried to feel me up, (we were both sober) I pushed his hands away. That’s as far as it ever went. I never wanted anything more. Then, one night, it went farther than I wanted. We were, or at least I was, drunk at an apartment party. I went with him into his brother’s room, which only had an air mattress and a couple of boxes. I remember just going in with an intention to sleep. But we did start making out and fooling around. I was tired and didn’t really want to, but I went with it. I remember him suddenly saying, I want to fuck you or I want to put my dick in you. One of those two. He didn’t wait to see how I felt about it. He just put on a condom and went in. I didn’t want to have sex with him. I didn’t say no. I didn’t really feel like I had the power to say it. I didn’t struggle. In my mind at the time, if I didn’t fight it, then there wouldn’t be a chance for me to lose the struggle and it actually become rape. When he was finished, I sheepishly emerged to go to the bathroom. The few people who were still out in the living room laughed at me because of the noises they heard. I peed, went back in, and went to sleep.
When I’ve recounted this story to friends, they’ve told me I was raped. Honestly, I still live in the land of Plausible Deniability, which is Regrettable Sex adjacent. It still makes me feel, at the very least, unsettled when I think about that night.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of or read the Rolling Stone piece involving the story of Jackie, who says she was gang raped at a UVA Phi Psi party. Anger and outrage from across the nation have rained down upon UVA, one of a handful of universities under a federal Title IX investigation for the mishandling of sexual assault cases on their campuses. You’ve probably also heard about the retraction Rolling Stone issued, essentially throwing Jackie under the bus, rather than owning their shoddy reporting. Suddenly, trust in Jackie was “misplaced”. Her friends and support group now no longer believe her story because some details may have changed. Details like whether it was 5 guys or 7 guys who gang raped her. You know. Things that a survivor who endured hours of trauma should be exact on, otherwise it totally didn’t happen. Jackie’s credibility has also been thrown into question because the members of Phi Psi have responded to her claims with a resounding, Not uh!!!! They have said that they do not use gang rape as a rush initiation ritual. And you know that if they did, they would be sure to admit it. They also say they did not have a party on the day in question. They conveniently don’t have the records from two whole years ago to back up that claim, but they’re a group of highly influential rich boys with a lawyer, a national chapter advising them, and have had two weeks to rally. So you know they’re telling the truth. I’m not going to go through each and every refuted claim. Suffice it to say, it’s very odd that everyone seems to suddenly doubt Jackie because of what Phi Psi says.

I’ve seen a few rape culture myths trotted out in relation to this story. There are the classics:
– Why didn’t she go to the hospital?
– Why didn’t she go to the police and press charges?
– Why doesn’t she name the guys if she’s telling the truth? What does she have to fear if she’s telling the truth. *gasp* She must be hiding something.

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My new favorite, though, is: She probably has false memories. Some details have changed over the past two years, so clearly she’s “remembering” things that didn’t happen. (Let’s just be real, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if Phi Psi had a few false memories of their own.)
I guess that is the logical argument to make if you want to call someone a liar without actually calling them a liar. So let’s break down why this is bullshit and tell armchair psychologists where they can shove their armchair.

1) Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable IF they witness a crime or fleeing criminal from a distance and/or it takes place too quickly for the brain to process it. It is then that someone’s brain may try to fill in the gaps or are susceptible to suggestion. That certainly doesn’t apply here.

2) False memory diagnosis was developed, in part, by Sigmund Freud. It posits that memories of sexual abuse from childhood may be repressed. When they are recalled, false memories may present themselves. Taking it a step further, false memory syndrome is when someone bases their life around a false memory. The latter would certainly describe Jackie’s case. The problem is that there is no accepted empirical literature published, nor is it a diagnosis within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5). So…..no.

3) Our brains are so wonderful, in that they are capable of denial. When trauma is too much to handle, our brains will protect us by kicking back the information as bogus, (common in cases of sexual assault.) Another protective action our brains take is compartmentalization. Your brain will say, I can’t handle this right now, so I’m going to set you aside and ignore you. Over time, these memories become shrouded in cobwebs in a darkened corner of one’s mind. It’s still there; it still affects you…your psyche. But it becomes increasingly difficult to pull back out and deal with it. Your brain fights back, continuing to try and protect you. But once you begin to deal with it, you may find you remember things that you meant to banish forever.

It is insulting to suggest to a survivor of sexual assault that they may be unintentionally making things up. It’s effectively patting them on their heads, handing them some cocoa, and saying their little women brains and wandering uteruses don’t know what they’re talking about. It takes away what little power the survivor may feel s/he has left; it is the power of knowing their own story.
I told my story at the beginning because I don’t remember a lot of things. I don’t remember what day or year it was. I don’t remember what or if I said anything to anyone right after it happened. I don’t remember the guy’s last name anymore. But there is one thing I remember with absolute certainty:
It happened.

If you have, or even think you have, been the victim of sexual assault and need support or don’t know what to do, please call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.