By Sarah Joyce Bryant

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

The first time I heard about the recording of President-elect Donald Trump bragging about his demeaning treatment of women like it was a badge of honor, I no longer wanted my boyfriend of five years to touch me. At all. Not a hug. Not a kiss. Nothing. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. I knew nothing had changed between us, that whatever was happening had to be coming from me.

I began to have flashbacks of past incidents.

And then I realized that President-elect Donald Trump, to me, stands for:

  • The twenty-six-year-old man who thought my fourteen-year- old smile was too beautiful to resist
  • The men who did not believe me when I told them I had been raped because a man like that would not want a girl like me
  • The man who abused me both physically and mentally throughout our four-year marriage
  • The man who shattered my car window because he didn’t like how opinionated I was
  • The male firefighter who tried to push me down the stairs during live fire training because he believed a woman’s place was as an EMT
  • The male firefighters who refused to back me up on the line during an active fire because they believed a woman’s place was as an EMT
  • The coworker who drugged my drink and raped me while I was unconscious
  • The other coworker who offered to give me a ride home because I’d had too much to drink and then raped me while I was passed out on his bed
  • The policeman who shoved his 9mm up my pussy for fun
  • The man on the dance floor at the club who shoved his finger up my pussy and made me unable to ever go dancing again
  • The man who tried to kill me while I was pregnant with his child
  • The men who refused to arrest him and were instead more interested in whose baby I was carrying, presumably because the man who tried to kill me said the baby  wasn’t his
  • The judge who said that this man was not guilty, and that for the sake of the child, I should learn to keep my mouth shut
  • Every man who has ever put his hands on me without my permission – and there are too many, too many, to count

I know these incidents made me feel sick, as if something was wrong, but it had never registered in my mind that many of these were considered sexual assault. I certainly never considered telling someone about them. I assumed I would have been seen as oversensitive or making a big deal out of nothing. It was, as my logic told me, boys being boys, locker-room talk, locker-room behavior.

Trump is the powerful man looking down at the powerless me saying that what these men have done to me is not wrong. Trump’s reaction to his recording is the exact reason I never told anyone after I had been raped the first time. It is the reason it took me so long to get out of an abusive marriage. It is the reason I am no longer a “10,” because being a “10,” put a bullseye on my back. If I can stay a “1,” my logic tells me, men will never hurt me again. I will not be harassed as I walk down the street. I will not be followed. I will not be stalked. I will not be important. I will be invisible.

I have spent an incredible amount of time learning how to be invisible in order to protect myself, and it has worked perfectly — until now.

Headshot of Sarah Joyce Bryant

Sarah Joyce Bryant is a recent graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio, and currently serves as a first-year writing instructor. Her work has most recently appeared in For Her.

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