Most of us seemed to have a triggering moment in our new president’s campaign that cut a little too close to the bone. For those of us who oppose him, his hateful rhetoric was always bothersome. Of all the foul things I heard him say, the worst for me personally was hearing the leaked Access Hollywood recording.
Hearing these recordings was triggering to me. I’ve been a victim of sexual violence, from being raped to getting groped at work. I’ve had men put their hands on me at concerts or or crowded bars more times that I can recall. And that doesn’t even touch on the verbal harassment.
When I heard the candidate and our future president bragging about grabbing women by the pussy and getting away with it because he’s rich, it took me back to my college job. I worked at a restaurant in a casino, and a customer did to me exactly that to me. He was one of the casino’s high rollers and came up behind me as I set his drink down on the table. He whispered something lewd in my ear and grabbed me on the rear end. When I went to my manager about the incident, she said his grope was probably done in a “dirty old man” sort of way. She rectified the situation by offering him a drink and making sure he had the best cut of prime rib in the house (no pun intended).
No one, regardless of wealth or status, has a free pass to kiss, touch, or grope a person without consent. Nobody. And we say this and seem to generally agree as a society. But then we have bosses who assure victims that the molester was just “a dirty old man.” And we have voters that are willing to make a person like this president. That sends out a different message that we need to remain silent about sexual assault.
This was my primary reason for getting out and marching on Saturday.
The density of the crowds around Pershing Square were like nothing I’ve seen at any political gathering. It felt more like a mosh pit, minus the body slamming. It took about a half an hour to get above ground from the Metro station. Even though it was tight, all the marchers were respectful and remained calm.
Once we were above ground, it wasn’t any easier to move around. The commencement of the march was delayed due to the size of the crowd, so there was nowhere to move. I slowly inched my way closer to Hill St. to meet a friend at a designated landmark. I would shuffle my feet forward a few inches, and then stand still with nowhere to go. Marchers were shoulder to shoulder with one another, and personal space did not exist.
And then I felt a hand on my butt. I didn’t want to overreact. What if it was another marcher who simply couldn’t move her hands? What if it was a young child who was innocently leaning against me for support? I glanced over my shoulder to see who was behind me. A sea of women and allies surrounded me. But there was one man behind and to the left of me that seemed a little out of place.
I took a step to the right. I hoped that moving would cause that unintentional hand on my butt to be freed. But no. As I feared, that hand belonged to the man behind me, and he slid it deeper into the crease of my buttocks as I took a step away.
With no doubt in my mind that I was being groped by a pervert, I turned around to confront him. But he turned around faster than I did, and made his way into the sea of protesters. I could still smell the sour stench of his breath, but I visually lost him. I wanted to wash myself of any residue of his violating hand.
I considered for a moment of yelling out that a man had just groped me. But I went back to the words of my former boss. Would someone find a way to excuse his actions? I was surrounded by allies who undoubtedly would have supported me. But the more we don’t get support from the people who should protect us, the harder it is to trust that someone will help. I was angry at myself that I didn’t snap his fingers as soon as I felt them grab me a little tighter. But what if that hand really did belong to a young child? I couldn’t blame myself for him groping me and sneaking away.
To all the critics who ask what the point is of the Women’s March: THIS is the point! I was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of women and our allies in what should have been an ultimate safe space. I made a sign denouncing our president for bragging about being able to grab any woman in any way he wants. And what happens? Some pervert takes a lesson from the president and gropes me!
Until women are able to safely congregate at rallies, enjoy a concert, or go to work without fear of being molested, I will continue to speak up against this culture and those who perpetuate it. Especially if it’s our president.