The Houses with the Signs


#rape #abuse #Trump

It’s a weird time to be living through, this election.

In a month we could have a president who has gleefully admitted to sexual assault, whose ex-wife accused him under oath of brutally raping her. The boring cliche that politicians lie obscures the fact that this particular one utilizes almost every conceivable tactic of psychological abuse, from threats to victim-blaming to gaslighting. Like most rapists and batterers, this one doesn’t limit himself to the kinds of abuse that leave physical scars.

I was driving through a wealthy part of town on my way to see a friend today. I saw Trump sign after Trump sign. A completely ridiculous thought kept popping into my head as I observed the identical blue signs in the fading light: “They think rape is okay.”

House after house of smiling, friendly white people with kids and golden retrievers who think rape is okay.

My high school friends all came from families like these. One of my oldest childhood friends, with whom I’m no longer in touch–his mom has his page liked on Facebook. She is the only person on my friends list who I can safely assume didn’t like the page just to keep tabs on it. She used to take us out for pizza and root beer after ballet class. She thinks rape is okay.

My teenage brother likes Trump. He thinks rape is okay.

He is too young to know what his older sister has gone through. He is old enough to think rape is okay.

Obviously it’s ridiculous. Obviously they don’t literally think rape is okay. Maybe they don’t think he really did it. Maybe they think Crooked Hillary created the tape. (How do you Photoshop a fucking tape?) Maybe they think he did it and it’s awful but what else can ya do when he’s the only one who can make America great again.

But all of that charitable rationalization obscures the fact that there are people who are horrified by the man on that tape and people who are not.

In some of my darkest and craziest intrusive thoughts, I imagine being raped by a stranger on the street, after dark, near one of those houses with the signs. I am convinced that even in that state I would choose a house without a sign to knock on the door and ask for help.

I’m not convinced that the people with the signs understand that rape is real.

I hated him before. I hated him for the racism and the Islamophobia and the fatphobia and the garden-variety sexism and for the homophobic running mate and really for all of it, whether or not it would ever affect me personally. But this is what brings on the ridiculous thoughts about all the houses full of people who think rape is okay, all the people who wouldn’t help me, all the people who, in fact, didn’t.

I think about looking up an old high school friend today on Facebook and finding out that she is dating an old high school boyfriend of mine, who assaulted me over and over during the few months we dated. Nobody knew nearly enough about the dynamics of abuse to even suspect it, and if they had, I’m sure they would’ve blamed me anyway. I didn’t even realize I had been assaulted until years and years later, until quite recently. At some point after the relationship ended, he made fun of me, saying that I’d always “trembled like a scared bunny” whenever we did anything.

I can imagine both of their parents in a neighborhood just like that one, with the signs.

I think about the fact that I can’t vote because the naturalization fees are almost $700.

I think about “sure, Trump’s bad, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for Hillary.”

I think about what it would mean to the women and queers and trans people and survivors in this country for it to be led by someone who cheerfully, repeatedly assaults women.

I think about how I can barely look at people I know or suspect are conservative anymore, because they may think rape is okay.

I think about all the people I grew up with that, after this election, I can no longer trust.

Trump himself may lose and slither back into whatever disgusting sewer he came from, but the people who love him won’t, and I don’t know how I can ever comfortably share a planet with them again.