(October 18, 2016) Hear the audio version
At first I thought it was just me.
When I heard Donald Trump bragging in a 2005 videotape of being able to sexually assault women, to “do anything” to them because he was a star, my heart began to race. I had an immediate flashback to the week before my high school graduation, when the senior minister of my church groped and chased me. An ordinary school night ended up with me managing, barely, to lock myself in a room and call my parents for help.
It didn’t take long to learn I was not the only woman having flashbacks. I read, then joined the “tweet me your first sexual assaults” Twitter stream started by writer Kelly Oxford. Many of us shared stories that have haunted us for years, of teachers, ministers, family members, bosses or other co-workers, ex-boyfriends, men on public transportation, drunk party boys and the like grabbing us where they shouldn’t, of exerting their power over our bodies because they felt entitled to do so. The New York Times called the result “a kind of collective, nationwide purge of painful, often long-buried memories.” Within five days, Ms. Oxford had received more than 30 million replies.
The hashtag for these personal stories is #notokay—because every person, not just men who have wives, daughters or granddaughters, must acknowledge that sexual violence is wrong. We need to make sure our children of all genders know it.
I was more fortunate than many survivors of sexual assault. My mom and dad believed me. I left for college 3,000 miles away. I did not accuse the groper publicly, though he also never ran for president.
Let this be a moment of national reckoning on rape culture. We have an opportunity for a turning point—to use the madness of this presidential campaign to help end sexual violence. Because that is, and always will be, #notokay.
With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.