By Aubrey Shayler
Executive Director & CEO of International Women's Initiative
On Friday October 7th , footage was released of republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gloating about his inability to control himself in the presence of a beautiful woman. Apparently her beauty causes him to have to kiss and bed her, regardless of her marital status or consent. To prepare himself for this phenomena of powerlessness, he makes sure that he has plenty of Tic Tac breath fresheners on hand. Further, along with the supportive encouragement of Mr Trump’s interviewer, who himself seemed comfortable with the lewd dialogue, Mr Trump proceeded to add that if he wants a woman sexually he will proceed to grab that woman’s genitalia, asserting that it is somehow permitted because he is a star. To be exact, the statement made by Mr Trump was:
“Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…..Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Mr Trump’s statements have been dismissed as “locker room talk”, and as such is not to be taken seriously. Further Mr Trump affirmed that these were just words and that he has never acted on them. Although there are several severe issues surrounding these statements, least of which is the purporting of sexual assault and use of the sexist dismissive implication that “boys will be boys”. I want to tell you a story, and provide a face and a voice for the woman on the receiving end of men who believe it is their inherent right to handle women as property. After much thought, I have decided to publicly share my experience.
A long time ago I was attempting to end an ongoing emotionally, and at times physically abusive relationship with a man I had been with for some time. One evening my best friend, who was quite concerned at my depressive state because of the relationship, suggested that we go out dancing and have some fun. I agreed and went out. I was at a show with a couple of girlfriends listening to a metal band play who were quite popular in the city where I lived at the time. I knew there was a possibility that he would show up, but I felt that because I was with my friends, as well as being surrounded by over two hundred people, there was safety in numbers.
As I stood in the crowd listening to the band play and dancing, I felt someone standing extremely close to my left side, and then a hand was firmly clamped at the back of my neck. I feel it important to add that he was 6’3 and muscular, whereas I am 5’5 and petite. I will leave specifics out, however after he twice demanded that I leave with him, and I twice told him no and to leave me alone, he then picked me up with one hand by the back of my neck, and simultaneously pulling my hair, and the other hand under my skirt locked onto my pussy as Mr Trump so eloquently put it. I was lifted off the floor and carried over his head like a sack of potatoes, or more my ex-boyfriend’s opinion of me, a sack of trash. He pushed past people as he moved toward the club’s exit. His fingers were virtually inside of me. As I kicked and screamed for help he tightened the grip of both of his hands. My girlfriends were right behind us trying to make him stop and screaming for him to put me down. Thankfully as we approached the exit and the bouncers saw what was happening, they not only made him put me down, but they kicked him out of the club. It wasn’t until after my friends whisked me away and put me in the car that I was able to think clearly, and begin to comprehend what had just happened. My clothes were tattered, my underwear had been torn, my sister’s earring which I had borrowed had been ripped out of my ear and lost somewhere in the melee. The next thing I remember is waking up the next morning. I have no recollection of going back to my apartment. The evening in general is a blur with the exception of what I have just shared.
That part of my body, which the republican nominee, who recently described as something he’d like to grab a woman by, was bruised and cut in several locations from my ex-boyfriend's violence. The healing was not complete for a couple of weeks. I had to be careful with what I wore, eventually settling on skirts for the duration of my healing. My neck was also quite painful. It was tricky to cover the very distinct five finger bruise on my neck. I did my best by keeping my hair down and wearing shirts with high collars.
I still remember that exact moment, as well as the shame I felt when it happened. The very last thing I want is to have my mother read about this experience as I know it would break her heart. Nor do I want my father to know this happened. For him, fathers are supposed to protect their daughters. To know that this happened to me, and that he was not able to prevent this attack, would fill his spirit with guilt. But more importantly, having my son read about his mother’s assault is something that I would like to avoid at all costs. I could not take him feeling the sorrow associated with this.
The experience of this assault, and the guilt and loss of self-worth, laid the foundation of abuse throughout my twenties. This abuse came at the hands of others and from myself, which included severe anorexia, destructive romantic relationships, and the belief that my innate self was the cause of my circumstances, which I was later to identify as abuse. It was not until I received therapy for my eating disorder, guidance from my university mentor and became a mother did I realise I was not deserving of abuse, but deserving of love and respect. Once I made that realisation I became unstoppable, and IWI is one of the outcomes of this epiphany.
However, my story, as well as the stories of thousands of other women, must be told. By remaining silent we as women are giving predators an open invitation to do what they will with our bodies, our minds and our souls. I encourage all of you who have experienced sexual assault to own your story and your experience. The shame is not yours to carry, but rather your assailants. Until you own your experience, and understand this, you will never be free.
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Share your story of empowerment against abuse with IWI and the world! Help women understand that they are not victims, but warriors who have the power to make a change and stop the cycle of abuse. Submit your story and a photo, to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish your experience on our website and social media. Only by shining a light on the problem will true change occur.