It’s really hard being a rape victim when Donald Trump opens his mouth and says what he says about women.
As I’m writing this, it’s 12:39 AM. And I’m having a panic attack–it’s not the first one I’ve had in the past few months, but it’s certainly been the worst.
It started because of a video I saw on the news, but it didn’t start right away (they almost never do). They develop over time, like a romantic crush: all of a sudden it hits you, and you’re like, “Oh, no.”
It started because of a video about Donald Trump. You know the one. The one he dubs “locker-room talk,” a “chat between guys.” But, in reality, it was more like the opening sequence of a sexual assault scene.
Which, unfortunately, is almost exactly like how my rape played out.
Picture this: a guy grabs an unsuspecting girl from behind while she’s washing her hands and punishes her for daring to reject him.
Don’t want to picture it? Yeah, neither did I.
But I had no real warning, no way to prepare myself. One minute, I was watching coverage on Hurricane Matthew, and the next I’m listening to Donald Trump make a lewd, rapey comment. The only warning was “Next tonight, we have an audio tape of a conversation Donald Trump had about a woman,” which I guess in hindsight should have been enough.
It’s now 1 AM, and I’m still fighting the waning panic that came from the unexpected audio clip.
Two hours ago, the hour-long panic was a lot worse than it is now. Now it’s a dull ache, then it was a roaring freight train. It was feeling heavy and light all at the same time–like two wings trying to carry a boulder weighing a ton. And I know that doesn’t really make sense, but imagine how you feel when you have a fever, simultaneously feeling hot and cold at the same time. It was like that, but it was like my person was trying to fly, but my body was weighing it down. My mind was in the past but my body was in the present, and the disconnect between the two created a whole body tingling sensation underneath my skin of cement.
And I was anxious and achy and dizzy and teary, and a million other things at once that I don’t have words for, but I wish I did.
I wish I could convey to you how it feels to have a panic attack, especially if you don’t understand, especially if you constantly bemoan the “sensitive millennials and their need for safe spaces and trigger warnings.”
To those of you like that: I pray to God that someone you love never goes through something so traumatic it changes the way they interact with society.
I wish I could adequately explain to you how it feels to have a panic attack because they’re exhausting, and they make sleep impossible and coming back to reality is an ordeal in itself.
And, oh my gosh, how I wanted to self-harm so badly last night. Because the sensation of a razor would have provided more physical pressure than tracing “I’m ok” over and over again with my finger. But trace away I did–130 times.
And when that didn’t work, I wrapped myself up tightly in my blanket, arms wrapped across my chest, knees bent, rocking back and forth, humming to myself, like a stereotypical old-timey insane asylum resident.
But I’m not crazy. I need something to ground me in the now. To remind my time-traveling mind that it’s safe with my body in the present.
Oftentimes the added pressure does the trick, which is why I like hugs. But if the pressure fails, I look in the mirror as the last resort because nothing draws my mind back to the present like a staring contest with yourself.
It’s 1:38 AM. Three and a half hours later, the panic is gone. Three and a half hours that I’ll never get back, where I could’ve been sleeping.
It could’ve maybe been prevented. Maybe not completely, but I could’ve been warned, could’ve prepared myself.
“The media’s not going to warn you if they’re going to discuss something like this.” They warn people when they’re going to show graphic videos or images where there’s blood or gunfire.
Why is this different?
Safe spaces and trigger warnings aren’t to stop us from talking about tough things, being challenged, being uncomfortable, and engaging in society. They exist to save us from ourselves.
You can’t be challenged if you don’t feel safe.
I want to be challenged. But I’m scared to be challenged if people are quick to dismiss the racial and gender issues in the country just because they aren’t part of them.
“There’s no race issue.” Says the white man.
“There’s no rape culture.” Says the man.
Donald Trump is rape culture personified. He can say whatever he wants and do whatever he wants when it concerns women because he’s a wealthy man.
Rape Culture is thinking women owe you something for being nice to them or being a man or being beautiful.
Rape Culture is grading women on their waist and bust size.
Rape Culture is calling women you don’t like “pigs and slobs.”
Rape Culture is ascribing worth to a woman based on how attractive they are.
Rape Culture is being jailed for six months after committing a sexual assault because “he has a bright future ahead of him.”
(I used to think I had a bright future ahead of me. Now I wonder if my past will ever stop blocking the sun.)
Rape Victim is 1 in 4.
Rape Victim is someone you know.
Rape Victim is afraid to go out in public because “not all guys” but enough do.
Rape Victim is scrolling through Twitter realizing how many people there are just like her.
Rape Victim knows that there’s more to being safe than having access to guns. And right now, we don’t feel safe because our past continues to slap us in the face whenever Trump speaks.
And all we want to do is move healthily into the future without being reminded of our past.