The first time I was sexually assaulted was when I was 12. A boy in one of my 7th grade classes groped my breast. I was embarrassed and scared and ashamed. I wanted to stay quiet. A girl I was friends with witnessed it. She made me tell the teacher. The boy was sent to the vice-principal’s office. He came back to class that period and sat next to me every day for the rest of the semester because there were assigned seats. I don’t think anyone ever called my parents. I don’t know if he was ever punished.
The second time, a family member forced me to hold up my shirt to show him my breasts and threatened me if I didn’t do it. He also snuck in my room and lifted my shirt while I pretended to sleep because I was too scared to move. I was 13.
Too many times to count, as a young woman dancing in a club or out for a night, a man rubbed his erection on me on the dance floor or groped me or tried to kiss me without my consent.
Once, when I was hanging out with friends at the People’s Improv Theater in New York, a place I loved and felt safe in, where I put up my first plays in New York, where I still have many wonderful friends to this day, a man who had previously been banned from the theater for allegedly assaulting another woman, without any provocation from me, grabbed my face and kissed me in the middle of the conversation. I was drunk and confused. I tried to shake it off.
When he tried to do it again, I stopped him and said, “you shouldn’t have done that the first time.” He got angry and started yelling at me but it was loud and crowded and nobody noticed. He accused me of leading him on and walked away from me. A guy I had a crush on was nearby and I was embarrassed. I was afraid he would think I was into this guy or with this guy who had kissed me without my consent. To other people it probably looked innocent enough, drunk people making out in a bar, maybe even dating, getting in an argument, you don’t want to interfere, a guy wouldn’t do that in front of everybody if it wasn’t ‘ok’ right? Especially a guy with a bad reputation who maybe needed to prove that women liked him?
These are my stories, and they all make me cringe and feel afraid and skeptical of men to this day. I have more too. I’ve been followed home by men, cornered in elevators, yelled at on the street. I’ve even been roofied. I think the horror of being roofied made me talk about it for a long time with a sense of humor. It was the only way I dealt with it. The man who roofied me and my friend didn’t get away with anything. He didn’t get his hands on me, but when I think about what would have happened if he had, I can’t handle that, so I joke about it being a wild night.
When I heard the Donald Trump tape of him, a rich powerful famous married man, bragging about kissing women without permission, how he could get away with anything because he was a star, how he couldn’t control himself, how he tried to fuck married women, how he moved on them like a bitch, how he could grab their pussies, I felt and remembered every time a man has sexually assaulted me and so did millions of women.
These are my stories, but the story I have told people many times about sexual assault is this, and it is the one that has stuck with me the most, and it is the most powerful one I know. Once in college, a bunch of the girls in our theater department at school snuck into the school at night to have a slumber party for the graduating seniors which makes me laugh so hard to this day. This is the kind of wild stuff we college girls got up to. We snuck INTO SCHOOL. We hung out with our girlfriends in sleeping bags in the middle of the acting/movement classroom floor. We sat around sharing our feelings and our stories. We CLEANED UP AFTER. These were the kind of girlfriends I had.
At some point during the night, we were playing some version of Truth or Dare that just turned into truth, and we all shared our deepest darkest secret. There were 13 of us, and as we went around in a circle, all but ONE of us had a story about sexual assault. Some version of a man violating us, taking advantage when we were drunk, or touching us without consent, or raping us. For some of us it was a family member, for some a friend, a boyfriend, a guy we liked… In a room of 13, only one had been spared. It was the moment I knew. Men are dangerous.
Obviously I’m talking about this, and trust me, I feel very vulnerable doing so- I feel scared and nervous about the repercussions- but obviously I am talking about this because a man who can do this to a woman, who can brag about it, who can delight in it and laugh about it, cannot be the President of the United States. It can never happen.
Anybody who votes for him or defends him, is defending sexual assault. He is against women. He hates women. There is no way that you can think this is excusable or okay and not hate women. My language is strong but trust me my actions will be stronger. Not only will I vote, as I have in every election, local or otherwise since I have been registered in Mississippi, but I will bring my daughter every time. Not just this November, but every time, until I am dead. This will be OUR STRONGEST FAMILY TRADITION. I will NEVER shut up. I will NEVER stand down. I will raise my daughter to understand her rights and how to fight back.
I know I live in a red state. I know I live in the south. It does not matter. I will NEVER stop doing everything in my power to stop this endless bullshit cycle of assault.
I know the stats. There is a strong likelihood that my daughter, even though I am fiercely protective of her, even though I cringe to think of this ever happening to her, will be one of the 12 girls in that room and not the 13th, but you can better believe that I will teach her how to fight back. I will show her the video of Gigi Hadid elbowing her molester in the face. I will take her to the polls. She will grow up with the first woman president of the United States. We will change the culture. We will change the country for women. We have to.