November 9th was the beginning of my rebirth.
Much of the months before the election were spent denying a feeling that was eating away at me just under the surface. A constant nagging telling me to “just get through the election, just get past the election…” I wasn’t fully aware at the time of why I felt this way I just knew that it was triggered by Donald Trump. Something about him was frightening and repulsive to me on a level that seemed beyond my awareness. There was a hidden darkness that he was stirring up within me.
Then the video clip “heard ’round the world” happened. The “grab her by the pussy” video. When I heard that sound bite, I actually felt a bit of relief. I was relieved because I knew how incredibly devastating that was. A man, seeking the highest office in the land, was fully admitting that he thinks he is entitled to sexually assault women. No questions asked. And even better, “they will LET you do it.” Surely now, everyone would see the monster that I was seeing.
I was apoplectic. I expected those around me to be apoplectic too. Instead what happened in the days and weeks that followed has included some of the most painful experiences of my life. Hearing men that I admired or looked up to laughing or shrugging it off. Women, who have been victims themselves, making excuses for him. It was just too much.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I came forward. Nothing was done. I moved on.
As a teen I was grabbed, fondled, ogled, and propositioned by men old enough to be my father. I came forward. Nothing was done. I moved on.
In 2001 I had a doctor that I worked with fully grab my ass with both hands in front of 12 coworkers, and a supervisor, we ALL came forward. Nothing was done. I moved on.
On November 8th, our country elected an admitted, repeated, sexual predator to the highest office in the land.
I could not move on.
I had a complete emotional breakdown. Things I had buried deep, deep down in my soul came rushing up to the surface flooding all of my senses. I felt every touch, every stare, every breath and every word over again, and all at once. I knew I was not okay. I made almost 50 phone calls until I found a counselor who would see me THAT day, and she was wonderful.
She helped me understand that what I was experiencing was PTSD and that I was not crazy. I was not weak, I was not dramatic, and I wasn’t wrong. When I was saying “why can’t I handle this?” she would tell me “How could ANYBODY handle this?” With her help I was able to accept what I was feeling, not shy away from it, or bury it down deep. I continue to do the work to heal, it will likely be a lifelong journey.
Like many people, who may or may not have a history of sexual abuse, I knew after this election that I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. So I started to call my representatives. I started to send emails. And it made me feel a little better. I decided on a whim to go to the Women’s March in Chicago and if there was a moment that “saved” me, that was it.
It was a baptism of sorts. I went into that city a broken, scared girl and I walked out a warrior.
But I am not the only one. We have seen it across the country, our state and our City. Just look at last nights elections in both Bloomington and Normal. With the election of Ward 1 Alderwoman Kimberly Bray, Bloomington’s City Council now has a female majority for the first time in history. Chemberly Cummings in Normal becomes the first African American woman to serve on the Normal Town Council. Nationally, more women are getting involved in politics like never before. They are turning out to vote and they are signing up to run. This is just the beginning. Women like me are finding strength is the gift from their struggle. Fearlessness after a lifetime spent afraid. Women are the strongest, most resilient creatures on the planet. Even when we are down we are thinking about how we are going to get back up. When we come together we are unstoppable.
The future is HERstory. And HERstory is now!