Can I Forgive?

This post is for women. Male readers can continue to read but you will have a hard time relating to what I will be saying, unless you are a male who is of the wrong color, or nationality, or gender orientation, or religious heritage, or have a body that is somehow defective. But this essay is about me, a female, being wounded by this election. I think there are many women who have been wounded by Trump and I hope that telling my story will help them find their voice. I have compassion for the men who have been wounded, but I can’t tell their story. I only have intimate knowledge of my wound and am troubled because I don’t know how to heal and forgive.

This election created a cesspool of emotional turmoil for me. Many people would describe the election as a nightmare, but I had nightmares – something that hasn’t been a part of my sleep for many, many years. I have also been having memories intrude on my waking thoughts. Memories that I don’t want to rerun, but I can’t find the stop button. I felt assaulted by the words of Donald Trump and this assault triggered memories of assaults I experienced in years past. I have felt traumatized by his words that bragged about how he can assault women just because he has the power of fame. Just typing that last sentence triggered a swell of anxiety reactions in me. He scares me. I am afraid.

Trauma has a way of triggering memories of past traumas in our brain circuitry. Those of us who have lived long enough know that when we experience the trauma of losing someone we love, that trauma triggers memories of all our previous loses. There is a cumulative effect. I bet you have experienced how these types of traumas can pile up.

I experienced several assaults by men, some of them pretty heinous and some of them run of the mill assaults. I know other women who have experienced different assaults. When we come together I think the one thing that we find is that we share a common experience of how the assaults impact us. The trauma doesn’t go away, even if we have years of therapy to better understand that the assault wasn’t our fault, even if we have a phenomenal ability to use denial, even if we work hard to gain more power than the men who over-powered us, even if we move far away to create a new life.

All we need to hear is some man, especially a man who is running for one of the most powerful positions in the world, to say that he can do anything he wants, he can even grab us by the pussy. When this happens all our defenses against the memories fail us – because he failed us. And we feel fear – we know our daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and nieces aren’t safe. We don’t feel safe. Safety is a delusion for females when men think like this.

When I say I don’t feel safe, it is hard to say it in a way that fully defines and describes the multiple levels on which my sense of safety has been assaulted. Only personal stories can do that, even though those stories are so hard to tell.

When I was 14, I was raped by a family member. It wasn’t the first time, it happened 10 years earlier by the same person. But this time it had consequences reaching far beyond the shame and helplessness we feel when we are violated in this way. I became pregnant and an abortion was arranged. The whole experience was an assault, so much so that I blocked it from my mind for many years. Slowly I have let myself remember details, like going to the basement door in the back of the small hospital. It was owned and run by a doctor who I later learned did illegal abortions while law enforcement didn’t look, didn’t ask. I was lucky – my mother-in-law’s sister died as a result of an illegal, back-ally abortion.

They were doing something illegal so they were distant. They had a job to do and they didn’t want to know me. No one explained or comforted. I was put on a table and told to spread my legs. I was 14. I wanted to vomit from fear. It was painful and they took me home. Funny, but of all the memories the hardest ones were of going back to school in the Fall. Their problem was solved and I was all alone – having to face friends while clothed in shame and guilt. I was all alone because no one knew and I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tolerate being more alone. I was living in exile in my familiar places, while fearing further exile. It was unbelievably hard.

It was hard, but the alternatives wouldn’t have been any better. My father didn’t make enough money for me to go to a home for unwed mothers in another city to wait for the birth, and give the baby up for adoption. My 14 year old body wasn’t capable of supporting another developing body – a child having a baby. There was no educational support for pregnant girls – they dropped out of school, dropped off the face of the earth. Girls who got pregnant were gossiped about – they were sluts, whores, bad girls. Parents of good boys wouldn’t let their sons date those types of girls. I don’t know if I could have gone back to school as a slut while holding my head high and getting good grades so I could go to college. You see, we were a middle class family, living in a middle class suburb. My parents taught us middle class values and I worked hard not to disappoint them.

I have those memories, along with being groped at the county fair and seeing a man expose himself as I opened our front door. I didn’t say anything because, well, I had heard people say ‘boys men will be boys men.’ This is why I find it so repulsive when men and r women diminish what Trump said on the bus by saying ‘boys will be boys.’ I have memories of men saying on television, during the cold war, that a woman could never be president because women’s monthly cycle makes them ‘unbalanced’ and thus not to be trusted with the nuclear button. This is why I find it so repulsive that Mr. Trump said that Megan Kelly had blood coming from wherever. This assaults all women, and reminds us of how our body has been degraded by men. How this degradation has been an excuse to keep us from accomplishing our dreams, of becoming successful, of becoming President of the United States.

Yes, I am afraid. I am afraid for my daughters Carol, Sharon and Natalia, for granddaughters Emily, Sarah, Lindsay, Maggie and Allison, for great-granddaughter Eevee. I am afraid that the degrading words of our President-elect will give his followers permission to say what he says, to act as he says he has acted. His supporters seem to believe his behavior is okay – I don’t. I am afraid that females will be deprived of basic reproductive services as our Vice-President elect destroys Planned Parenthood. I am afraid that our reproductive freedoms will be taken away through the appointment of Justices. I consider myself pro-life but defined as supporting a life of dignity and opportunity and justice for all people both born and unborn. And sometimes we have to make really difficult choices. Life is messy.

Yes, I am angry. I am angry at Trump supporters who are calling me a crybaby. I am angry at Trump supporters who are telling me to shut up. Yes I have cried but I’m not going to shut up. I will not support the new administration’s policies if they are destructive to who we are as individuals and to our country. Trump will not be my president.

Yes, I am angry and I am not ready to forgive Trump and his campaign team for their degrading and dangerous stances about women, Blacks, LGBT, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, the physically challenged, the press, science, and others I can’t think of right now. I am angry about the people he brings to the table – I was taught that people are defined by the company they keep. I am not ready to forgive him for inciting violence at his rallies because he loves the roar of admiring crowds. I fear for people who this man, his associates, and his followers hate so much. I know forgiveness is difficult but also know how to do it because I have forgiven the men that assaulted me. Forgiveness comes only when we know there is honest repentance and a desire for forgiveness. Honest repentance can only happen when a person is able to take responsibility for their acts, understand how their actions hurt others, experience the guilt of having done wrong, and face their victim wearing the cloak of shame. This hasn’t happened. Trump doesn’t apologize because Trump doesn’t admit to doing wrong.

Once upon a time I felt helpless, but not any more. Even if I am able to forgive with time, I will not forget. I will be vigilant. I will be listening and watching. I will be speaking out and acting. I have made a donation to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name (click in honor of) and having the notification sent to him at the White House so there will be some transparency. I have notified companies that carry Trump products that I will not purchase from them until they make a public statement that they have dropped Trump products. And as the issues change I will look for ways of supporting other organizations that can do what I can’t do because of age.

The United States will only be as great as its citizens. Let’s make sure all people are protected and supported.

 

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34 Comments »

  1. You are a heroine. Your bravery is sharing your experiences will help every person who reads it, including the way to many males and females who have survived experiences such as yours. I too feel a strong sense of foreboding and lack of safety in country that seems to have been taken over by abusve people. I too worry about the effects of this on my children. I worry about the suffering involved in the deportations, in the denial of medical care, in the normalizing of sexual abuse. You are not alone and I salute you for your courage and honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are a very courageous and strong woman in spite of and because of your experiences. The mindset in the country is very scary right now. Thank you for sharing your story. I know so many strong women and applaud all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your brave and articulate expression of your pain, rage, and fear. There are many across the country dealing with various mixes of all of these. You are on a mission I share. Miss you, but glad to hear your feisty spirit is alive and well . . . even amidst nightmares and flashbacks. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been thinking of you, Julie. A lot. Thanks for your affirming comments – they mean a lot. I now consider myself to be a “nasty woman” with a pussy.

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  4. You are very brave to share your story. I do not want that option taken away from women. I remember when a teen pregnancy was not an easy choice for families. Trump has made it OK for men to take advantage of women and denigrate the LGBTQ community and others. As Cindy wrote, I too salute you for your courage and honesty/ We must continue to stand up every day and speak out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a bunch! I was feeling so helpless but slowly decided that I could make a difference if I did what I can do – write. And I feel stronger now that I have donated to organizations that can work on my behalf to protect what I believe is important. Thanks for standing with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hear! hear! Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, am afraid and angry. I cannot believe that Trump was elected, and I fear we are in for only God knows what. I have considered donating to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name and may just do that, and I am finding support and kinship in a Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation and in the few friends (male and female) who believe as I do.

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    • Hear! hear! to you, too. The take away after a week is that 1) we need to listen to our emotions that say he is dangerous; 2) we need to be thoughtfully diligent to what is going on as he leads because he is not to be trusted; 3) we need to act by supporting those organizations who have the resources to do what we can’t; and 4) we need to maintain a healthy support system within all the sickness going on around us. Your comment laid my plan out for me. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a brilliant post. You say it’s for women but I hope many, many men read it. The trauma you experienced is appalling. I want to wrap in a great big hug and let your pain flow through me into mother earth so that it drains away. The cry you make is your post is the cry of women through the long,long ages of patriarchy. Now we have Trump just when thought that the darkest days of patriarchy were finally falling away. Now more that ever, we must stand tall and speak out loud and clear.

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    • Suzanne, I accept your hug and feel pain flowing. Thank you. I felt a need to let those who don’t understand (those who call us crybabies) where our pain and fear is coming from. Our pain and fear comes from having experienced some sort of assault that Trump is now threatening again. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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    • Thanks, Lois. I appreciate that you comment that my words are gentle. I worry about that, because I have a hard time being gentle when I’m angry and crying. 🙂

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  7. You know when they say that such and such a piece of writing spoke to them, reached out the them – well this piece from you did that. I am sure it broke the barrier because I feel I know you a bit from your writing over the past year or two. Whatever the reason, I can imagine the strength it must have taken to write it. So – good thoughts and then some, winging on their way to you.

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    • Thanks David. It means a lot to hear your words. Not only did it take strength (and courage), it also meant some tension between JB and I because I was the sharpest (as in meanest) object in the house. 🙂 We patched it up before bedtime.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing this Pat and after what you have experienced it is even more important to stand up for yourself and let the world know that it is not OK to treat women this way and let the offenders walk away.

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  9. I hope that having the courage and conviction to put your pain into words in itself has had the power to help you heal. Thank you for your bravery. Yes, I am a man, you are right, I cannot relate, but I read your blog anyway – twice. I found it profoundly upsetting. I’m with David Bennet, it reached out to me. I feel a pain and a sadness. You are not alone. I hope you made it right with JB with a hug. I hope I am not getting to personal, cause I am sending hugs your way. Thanks Pat.

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    • Thanks for the hugs, Dan. And you sound like one of the many men I know who don’t have to be able to relate, to be able to care and understand. Of the course the same is true of women – I have often wished I could live a day with a man’s brain. Just to know how they think. Anyway thanks for reading, commenting and also caring. I am touched.

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    • I am doing what I can to keep my stress level under control while at the same time maintaining my integrity by doing what I can to fight battles that need to be fought. Thanks for your support.

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  10. Recently I read that the world won’t be destroyed by the evils, but for those that watch them without doing anything. That phrase was written by a sand sculptor; he was referring Trump and was censored right away.
    Thank you very much for taking your time, energy, and life experiences to give us a voice. I am a Cuban, Black Woman, and Mother that came to this wonderful country with a dream. I don’t have the strength to stand up because I’m part of a minority, but I thank you for giving us a voice. Thank you

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    • Dear Yanay, what a touching comment. I have tears in my eyes and I think they are for our shared fears, but also because we have reached out and touched each other. I am doing what I can to help you reach your goal by telling friends about the work you are doing. I am also donating to groups who are watchdogs and use their money fighting for the rights of people like you. That is what the U.S. has always been about and that is what I will fight for. And any time you want me to write your story (without naming you) I will really give you a voice. Just e-mail your story and I will edit it so it is part your words and part my words and post it.

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  11. Democracy is only an illusion when voting is non-compulsory.

    I reckon many will be feeling guilt for not exercising their right on election day. Trump’s supporters cared. They showed up. I’m sorry that you have personified the horrors of the past in this one man but at least he is not hiding behind a sleek exterior as a lot of them do.

    Stay strong, Pat.

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