I awoke the next morning perturbed, nauseous, and terrified, because I realized that I am a sexual assault survivor living on a college campus in Donald Trump’s America.
All of my anxiety stemmed from watching over 59 million people actively support a man who has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. I kept trying to rationalize the votes for him, desperately trying to believe that they voted for reasons outside the realm of fear or hate, but simply could not separate those emotions from voters’ actions.
Each vote for Donald Trump to me represented an individual who would not believe me if I reported my rape, someone who would ask me what I was wearing or how much I had to drink. Each vote for him was a vote to support a party that has actively sided with rapists over their victims. In my mind, each vote for Trump was a vote for Brock Turner. Each vote for Trump was a vote for my rapist. The men who voted for Trump wouldn’t intervene if they saw my rapist assaulting me. The women told men like him that misogyny is acceptable, and would have called me a slut for allowing myself to be raped. The fact that 59 million Americans endorsed him is proof of societal ills they refuse to acknowledge.
I, like many survivors, have to cope with the knowledge that my parents and friends voted for Trump. Personally, I will eat Thanksgiving dinner with a family of stringent conservatives. I will feel threatened sitting at that table, sharing a meal with people who would rather allow rapists to thrive in society than give their victims the justice they deserve. They actively chose to support and propagate a culture where rapists walk free after mere months of jail time, a culture that slut-shames and does not teach its children that “no” means “no.”
However, the fear of living in a Trump-supporting household is not the fear that kept me in bed yesterday morning. I woke up with a feeling akin to the morning after my assault. I felt raw, unnerved. I wanted to run away, but was unsure of how. I felt trapped, petrified of getting up and going outside to face a new world. Overwhelmingly, I was terrified of being raped again.
Lying in my bed this morning, I began to cry, not for myself but for the future girls who would someday have this feeling. For the girls headed to college this time next year, who will be facing a culture of misogyny that has been excused by Trump’s campaign and now validated by his victory. For the girls who will be raped, who will hate their bodies, blame themselves, understand what PTSD feels like, and fear men wherever they go.
Then, I did something for those girls. I was brave. I got out of bed, showered, and put on my favorite outfit. I made breakfast and tea. I went to class, unlike many of my peers. My campus was eerily silent yesterday, and many of my classmates decided to stay home. I decided to soldier on and start to fight this new reality, and refuse to give in to the hatred and violence perpetrated against rape survivors.
There has been hate provoked by Donald Trump’s campaign – college students are already seeing it. But like the protests erupting around the country, my fellow survivors and I will also be silently protesting every day for the next four years. We will continue to be strong in the face of rigid adversity. We will continue to believe and support women who come forward with their assaults, and we will encourage the women who do not report to be strong and seek the help they need. We will support men who are sexually assaulted and fight alongside them. We will fight to change our peers’ minds about the stigma surrounding sexual violence. Most importantly, every day, we will rise, and we will persevere and succeed in spite of the hatred and violence perpetrated against us.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). For more resources on sexual assault, visit RAINN, End Rape on Campus, Know Your IX, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Consent That You Never Learned in Sex Ed