I was just getting up from my seat to transfer buses on my way back to campus from work last week when an older guy suddenly got in my face. “You’re smokin’ hot, you know that?” he said, loud and proud, in front of the bus full of people. “You a real fine piece of ass.” Despite the volume of his voice, the vile content of his speech and the fact that he was now so close to me I could smell his breath, the other passengers only paid attention with mild interest to see how I would react. I felt myself turn beet red, turned my eyes to the ground and quickly exited the bus. He followed me. I did not wait for the transfer bus and ran the seven bus stops back to my dorm.
This is the fourth time something like this has happened to me this year, and many of my friends have had similar and worse experiences.
While the harassment was stressful, the scariest thing for me was the reaction of not only the passengers, but of my friends when I told them what happened. When I was harassed by a group of drunk guys in a car who followed me home last year, the people I told were shocked. They told me to call the campus PD and some even offered to walk me home after my night classes. Over the course of the election year, however, I have witnessed the people I know become more and more passive in regards to incidents like these. More people have been either unfazed or just disbelieving. By the time this last incident happened, one guy even asked me, “Why couldn’t you just take the compliment?” like I should enjoy being reduced from human being to ‘piece of ass’ in just ten seconds by a stranger.
Increased passivity has expressed itself in more than just this way. I’ve also witnessed an increase in rape jokes told in person and on the internet, a stronger denial of rape culture and more and more people saying that “most women lie” about their assaults. If you doubt any of this, all you need to do is go on social media. The fact is that the more accepted Donald Trump and his offenses have become, the more women have to fear from leaving their house in the morning.
As a woman, if none of this scares you, it should.
I came to the conclusion a while back that I can understand the appeal Donald Trump has to the average white male voter. He's very rich. He's famous. He makes big promises, and he says what he thinks without filtering, and by doing so he addresses and makes open the fears and typically unexpressed prejudices of the 'average' American. He isn't the establishment, and that alone makes him appealing to every single person who is tired of our political system.
If a single, white, male citizen wants to vote for Donald Trump, I completely understand. To every American citizen, however, this is my appeal:
Being the leader of a country is about more than arguing policy and vetoing bills. A leader is a reflection of the values of a culture displayed for the whole world to see. In this country, we have the blessing of being able to choose this cultural mirror once every four years, so that every person in this country can have someone to depend on, look to for guidance in times of need, and even view as a role model.
Set aside your thoughts on race, terrorism, gun violence, homosexuality, abortion and all other hot topics no matter how prevalent. While all these issues are of course very important in this election, right now I ask you to think seriously about the safety of every woman under a Donald Trump presidency.
I have been told frequently that I should not be worried about a Donald Trump presidency, because he likely won't change any laws regarding women's rights. This increase in passivity due to every objectifying comment he has ever made about a woman is proof that he doesn't have to.
According to the CDC, 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime, and 1 in 20 women have experienced some other form of sexual violence in the past year. The likelihood of experiencing sexual violence goes up dramatically for women in college. If you haven’t had such an experience, that’s wonderful, and I am genuinely happy for you, but chances are you know at least one victim of sexual violence. I know many. While the rate of sexual assault has gone down since the ‘90s, rape culture is still very prevalent in our society, and if you don't believe me, take a look at Donald Trump.
He has publicly objectified women before, but in the video leaked a few weeks ago he openly stated that he could sexually assault a woman and get away with it, because he's a star. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. It doesn’t matter whether or not he knew he was on camera. I don’t know a single man, even the ones who assaulted me, who would brag about doing so. Locker room setting or not.
Is this really the cultural mirror we want to elect this November?
People like Donald Trump are the reason 600 people are raped every day in the United States, and 97% of their attackers will never spend a day in jail, according to RAINN. Take a moment and think of every obscene comment and action you have ever heard him direct towards a woman, and imagine it directed towards your mother, your wife, your daughter, or your girlfriend. Imagine your daughter's significant other calling her a “young and beautiful piece of ass.” Imagine being reduced to a sex object by a stranger on a city bus. Think of the sexual violence victims in your life and imagine their attackers saying unabashedly that they simply couldn't help themselves. A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for everything he stands for, and every influence he has and will have on the attitude of the American people.
Whether you choose to see it or not, the Trump effect is real, and it makes life in this country more dangerous for the entire female population. I have three nieces, and I want them to grow up in a world where they are viewed as equal and intelligent human beings who are just as worthy of respect as any male. I am asking all of my American sisters, as a human being and a woman, please don't make this country a place where sexual violence is viewed as normal, and please don't vote for Donald Trump this election. Our humanity depends on it.