If you’re anything like me, you’ve been watching this election season like a racecar just about to crash. This one has shed a bright light on some of the darkest corners of our nation: racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, uninformed perspectives on mental illness; the list goes on and on. Of course, many of these issues have been spotlighted in past elections and even tragically highlighted in the last few year’s newsworthy events. However, I know I’m not the only one who believes that this time it has gone much too far.
The recently leaked recording of Donald Trump bragging about a sexual assault and his later dismissal of it as “just words” has reiterated an issue we women have seen all our lives but now on an entirely new level. However, because of his dismissal of his criminal acts, many women who are survivors of sexual assault, abuse and violations are coming forward to share their stories, some of them for the first time. The shame is gone, and it has been replaced with a resounding, "No! These are not 'just words,' and this is nothing less than criminal."
I too feel compelled to share my personal story and have no choice but to discuss not only the experiences of and resulting perspectives on sexual violation but also the damaging and non-dismissible reality of verbal and psychological abuse.
You see, survivors like me have seen it all—the manipulations, denial, distortion, attention-seeking behavior, intimidations, gaslighting. Many of us have met abusive men and women just like him when we were just little girls and boys, and we recognize him for what he is. His “words” are tapes that have played over and over in our heads for years. But we aren’t little girls and boys anymore. And, many of us destroyed those tapes long ago.
Collectively, Trump has shown us survivors what we will no longer tolerate. We don’t want our children to aspire to bullying. We don’t want them to think that “mean words” are anything less than abusive, regardless of the direction in which they are spewed. We don’t want our little girls and boys to think how-to discussions about sexual violations or assault is appropriate or anything less than criminal. We also don’t want our little girls to think that’s how the men and boys in this nation see or talk about them. We don’t want them thinking “all men” discuss the ways in which they have assaulted or sexually violated women—the older version of our little girls—or the method in which they plan to.
Additionally, we don’t want our boyfriends, husbands, sons, brothers and male friends lumped into Donald Trump's category of “all men.” We refuse to accept his definition of normal; a definition we might not have realized was so widely accepted until now.
Now from his rise, Trump has given us cause to speak up long after he is gone from the nation’s spotlight because, clearly, we have work to do. We have girls, boys, women and men to educate on many, many things. We have awareness to bring to a nation of people. We have personal stories to share, empowerment to gain and possibly even charges to file.
So now, a little note to Donald Trump himself:
Dear Mr. Trump,
I would like to personally thank you. You have shined a light on the darkest corners of our nation. You have brought to the forefront some of our deepest secrets and concerns, and given them a platform for discussion.
Most notably, you have brought survivors of sexual assault and abuse out of the shadows where they may have once hid, voiceless and in shame. But now, as a group, we are speaking out like never before. We are openly sharing our stories of verbal, psychological, physical and sexual abuse, assault, violation and survival. We are banding together, advocating for ourselves and each other. We are standing up to bullies and calling them what they are: abusers. We are confronting rape culture. We are courageously facing the men and women like you who abused, attacked, assaulted, molested or violated us, and we are quickly and loudly correcting any man or woman who does not see or refuses to accept the issue with your “words.”
Thank you for motivating me and so many others to speak out and incite necessary change. Thank you for reminding me and other survivors of the fact that it is indeed important—now, more than ever—to let our voices and stories be heard. And finally, thank you for giving all of us—regardless of gender, race, culture, religion and nationality—an opportunity to trade in our victim stance for one that speaks much louder, stronger and clearer: the stance of a survivor.
I no longer see you as a threat, Mr. Trump. No, that label gives you power. Instead, you are merely a mirror, and I think it’s time that we, as individuals and as a nation, begin to fix the reflection.
Toshia Humphries, Abuse Survivor
If you or someone you know have been a victim of abuse and is seeking professional help, please visit our directory of counseling and therapy centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.