When Your Abuser Is Elected President
Donald Trump is no stranger to me. I know every inch of his bloated body like it’s my own. I’ve seen it in the men who catcalled me in front of the grocery store when I was 8 or 9 years old. I’ve seen it in the hands of the men who raped me and told me to stop making such a big deal about it. I’ve seen it in the man who gave me his DNA but helped himself to my body before I could walk.
Donald Trump is grotesque and abominable, but I know him. I just never expected him to be my president.
I became a victim before I knew any other life. I don’t know what it’s like to trust in the goodness of others deep inside your heart. I began fighting long before I could comprehend what I was fighting against. The fight has come to define me as much as my brown eyes or sarcastic wit.
I’ve never turned away from the good fight. I have reported abusers, and gone up against liars and cheaters in court, and most of the time I walked away stunned when the system chose them over me. Deep down inside, I’ve convinced myself to keep fighting by telling myself this world is full of depraved abusers, but there are more good people than bad; that someday we will tear down this broken system and rebuild it in a better, safer way.
Those illusions are gone today. There is no false comfort or hope left to wrap myself up inside. Our country, the people I know and love, chose the side of the abuser in one resounding vote. Goodness and decency aren’t triumphing over bigotry and abuse, they are being crushed under the weight of narcissism and hatred.
I often write about rape culture and sexual assault trauma. I’ve advocated for reporting our rapes, speaking out, sharing our stories, and educating our children. Our children may create a better future, but I don’t know how they will carve it from this wreckage. This is not hyperbole or overreaction; this is a desperate call for help that I know will go unanswered for at least the next four years.
What is there to fight for when our enemies are ourselves? What is left for myself and my children when my country has taken the side of my abusers and even the Klu Klux Klan? Today is a triumph for someone, but it isn’t me. It is a triumph for people who believe in taking what they want, against my will, against your will, because they can. It’s a triumph for the lowest level of humanity, and it’s one I unfortunately know well.
My abusers tell me they will take care of me, and that what they do is for my own good. They promise me help and change—but it’s all lies. Donald Trump rode those lies into the presidency, and now he will be the face of our nation. A gaslighter, liar, and abuser will be our president. A man who helps himself to women’s bodies will lead our nation, and teach our sons what it means to be a man.
We have never been a perfect nation, but we have been better than this. We have committed ourselves, at times, to progress not regression. I don’t know how to give up, so tomorrow I will stop grieving and start fighting. I don’t know what that fighting will look like, but I know it is the only choice I have. If I do not fight, I am one of them. If I do not commit myself to change, I am consenting to Donald Trump’s regime. If I do not separate myself from the pack, I will become an abuser.
It’s easy to become an abuser. I’ve heard the siren song of self-focus, and I’ve been tempted to answer its call. Life would be easier if I stopped fighting and joined the others. Life would be easier if I rolled over and played dead and let them take my body and my life.
I’ve never been one to choose the easy path. The older I get, the more I see just how little my fight changes the world; the older I get, the more I see just how critical it is to keep fighting even if it takes us generations to win.
The face of my abusers stares back at me when I look at Donald Trump. His sneers and entitlement to my body are bitter old bedfellows I’ve learned to cast aside. He has won the presidency, and there is nothing I can do about that. But I can choose not to go quietly into the night. I can choose to fight for my body, my life, and the world I want to leave behind for my children.