Sexual Abuse

Sigh. So–sexual abuse of women is a front page headline–again. This is starting to feel like the fight for gun control, like a hopeless fight against something so deeply entrenched in our male dominant culture that it flags on the 24-hour news cycle only when something heinous happens–and only for 24 hours. Until the next heinous thing happens or the next stupid thing the President says or does.

Sexual abuse has happened so often to me that I suppose I had begun to accept that it was normal. This is just what it means to be a woman in the world, I thought. It was just too big a battle to fight, even when I was raped at 16 and never told anyone.

In every rape trial I heard or read about, the woman lost. It was the woman’s fault, or she was lying, or she was wearing the wrong clothes. I think about Edward Kennedy at Chappaquidick, Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill in Senate hearings, Brock Turner just two years ago. They–the men–always seemed to get away with it, because that’s just the way it is, I thought. I hated it, hated being treated like a second-class human but I also felt powerless and exhausted.

But something happened to me when Trump was elected. More than a dozen women came forward to report that he sexually abused them, and then Trump himself admitted on tape that he sexually abused women. And he got away with it and was elected President anyway. For all the things I dislike about the new President–and there are more than I can list in one place–the one I most abhorred was his sexual abuse of women.

When Americans decided his behavior was okay and that he would be a good leader for our country, something happened in me. I was sickened, revolted by the voters’ decision that they would rather have a sexual predator in the White House than Hillary Clinton, a woman. About 5 million other women felt similarly to me as evidenced in the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Suddenly, I started seeing cultural misogyny everywhere. I noticed how many television shows and movies are based on the premise of a man disrespecting, intimidating, abusing, or murdering a woman. It was truly shocking once I became aware and realized that this is part of the enculturation that saturates both men and women. Here is the message of this powerful medium: women are bad and men should disrespect and dominate women in every way.

Sure, most men are stronger and physcially bigger than most women. Sure, they have an extra dose of testosterone that drives them. But cave men don’t rule the world anymore and a man who cannot control himself or his desires should be isolated from the rest of humanity, i.e., in prison.

Sexual assault of women is not a new thing. It’s not an unknown statistic or event. Virtually every woman who has ever lived has been sexually assaulted or knows someone who has been sexually assaulted.

Is it finally going to end? I doubt it, but still hope.

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