My first kiss was with a boy who told me I was lucky he didn’t rape me. We were on a wooden bench in my high school after track practice; he felt me up in my spandex and sports bra, and I thought that was some form of being cherished. He tried to push his fingers inside my underwear. When I said no — once, twice —, he shook his head, murmured, “Good thing you’re with me and not some of my friends.” He kissed me on my forehead. “Some guys I know, they’d be like — vagina!” And with his hands, he mimed assaulting me.
My first DFMO at Penn was with a boy who pressed me against the wall at Theos. It was NSO, and I was bleary–drunk on Bankers and store brand cranberry juice. I felt special; I’d been chosen. Freshman year, I learned to measure my worth by the number of boys who slid up against me in basements, who leered at me on frat porches and decided my push–up bras and crop tops made me hot enough to enter their parties. That first boy slid his hands into my pockets. “Like, how morally wrong do we really think rape is?” he slurred. “I mean, I know it’s wrong, but, like —" A friend snaked through the crowd, pulled me away, walked me home. I wonder all the time what would have happened if I’d been left with him.
My first sexual assault was on St. Patty’s Day of my freshman year. Two years later, I’ve been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I sink into flashbacks — at parties, in class, during sex — and run to the nearest bathroom. And I can see myself there, reeling, but what I feel is the worming of my rapist's tongue in my mouth, his hands flattening me against the bed, everything in me wanting to scream but in the dark my eyes wobble and I can’t stand. Acid rises in my throat; my forehead slips against the edge of the toilet. My shoulders jolt with fight-or-flight electricity. I see in squiggles and can feel his weight. I try to swim back to the present but what I hear is his voice cracking in my ear — the boy who raped me, and, lately, the voice of Donald Trump. Our next president has become a catalyst of my flashbacks. Declaring his right to grab me by the pussy. Staking his claim to this body that has already been taken from me.
I haven’t had the mental space to worry about what Trump will do in office. What scares me shitless is what Trump’s election signifies — that a majority of Americans are not deterred by a president who brags about sexual assault. That his comments weren’t enough to cross a line of basic decency; that my worth as a woman will continue to depend on what my pussy, my body, my appearance can offer to men like Trump. We, as a country, had a chance to stand up for survivors and to rape culture as a whole. We didn’t. We let “locker room talk” become acceptable behavior, and I’ve seen that reflected in the men who have groped and bruised and grabbed me. They, too, will become Penn alumni.
Over the past weekend, my flashbacks intensified. I had to drink half a bottle of Nyquil to fall asleep. I chugged vodka from the handle to forget my own thoughts. Tuesday night, I bit holes into my sweaters from nerves; I sat up until 3, drunk and alone in my apartment, waiting for the election to be over. I clawed through the panic as best I could, mascara stains dribbling down my cheeks, the words of my rapist and my next president merging into one.