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┬ámen 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.