Saturday, October 8, 2016

#NotOkay: Sexual Assault and the Politics of Winning

Trigger Warning -- Sexual Assault Descriptions

"Silence" - Johann Heinrich Fuessli (1741 - 1825)

Canadian journalist, Kelly Oxford (@kellyoxford), has been running a Twitter campaign in response to Donald Trump's 2005 remarks regarding the treatment of women and fame that has drawn more than one million women (no exaggeration here) out of silence to talk about their sexual assaults. I started to participate but decided that I had more to say than 140 characters would hold.

Since my childhood, I have been the victim of 7 sexual assaults, only two of which I reported.

5 years old - In my own backyard. I was stopped by a man in a car in the alley behind my house who showed me "what (he had) in his pants" and then offered me the opportunity to put my mouth on it. I declined but never told anyone because I had no idea that it was anything but just gross.
8 years old - At a Summer Camp, I was taken into a grove of pine trees by a group of boys, who raised my shirt to look at my breasts (which were apparently unimpressive, whereupon, I was let go). I reported this to my counselor who went looking for the boy I could describe. When he was found, he denied the whole thing and I was told to stop making things up.
10 years old - In my house, my babysitter decided to feel me up while "making sure I was in my bed." When I told him to stop it, he did, so I never told my parents.
11 years old - On the city bus, I was seated on a bench seat. The man who sat next to me began to spread his legs out until they were touching mine. I didn't realize what was going on until he put his hand on the seat next to me and started to touch my hip. I got off at the next stop and waited for the next bus and assumed that it was just me being hypersensitive.
12 years old - On my paper route, I was collecting for the monthly bill. An old man who had been very kindly toward me and had several grandchildren that he looked after, grabbed my breasts (which were more impressive than they were when I was 8) and humped me. He told me I was a good girl and he'd take good care of me. I quit carrying papers that month. I never told anyone because I figured that no one would believe me.
14 years old - At a babysitting job, a man who had been a guest in the house for dinner, stayed to help me with the dishes and then stayed to help himself to a little heavy petting. I participated, but he was 28. I was 14 and he knew it. I never considered this an assault until last year when I realized what had really been going on.
16 years old - At a party, I was given enough beer to get pretty well trashed and then raped by a co-worker who was twice my age. When I finally told my parents, because I was so ashamed that I had been at a party where I should not have been, nothing could be done about it.

Why are these stories so important to tell and what does this have to do with the 2016 Election?

The stories are important to tell because they point to an objectification of women that stretches far back into our history. Women and girls are simply tools for gratification. Actually, rather than raising our stock to "personhood" feminism has simply degraded the stock of men, so we objectify them, too. This has now become pervasive in our society, so much so that we have enshrined it in our entertainment.

Take a look at our obsession with shows like The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Survivor, and Big Brother. And how about the 50 Shades trilogy? We are making those people into objects for our own gratification. We are seeking our entertainment from watching their pain and discomfort. It is this obsession with people's discomfort that drives these sexual assaults. It's all about power: I can make you flinch or do what I want you to do.

This objectification of people has everything to do with this year's election because BOTH candidates are guilty of using and abusing people in order to gain power and pleasure. This is the battle we have been ignoring. We've been following this wild dog of objectification and it's about to turn around and bite us in the collective face.

There are many who are defending Donald Trump by saying that these were just lewd comments and that actions speak louder than words. This ignores the fact that he is describing an actual encounter in which he sexually imposed himself on a woman without her consent. This is an admission of an actual sexual assault. Furthermore, it belies a much more deep-seated issue that Mr. Trump seems to struggle with on all fronts - the dehumanization and objectification of all people. For Trump, everyone is an object --a tool, if you will -- for his gratification.

He has displayed this same contempt for the women in his family, giving shock jock, Howard Stern, permission to call his daughter Ivanka "a piece of ass" and making the comment that he thinks his daughter is hot and he would sleep with her.

Really? This is the man we want representing our country? Even in his apology, he says "I'm sorry if you were offended" squarely placing the blame on those who are offended, and not taking the blame himself.

I have said before that I do not believe that the man is pro-life. He views those children's lives as a tool to get elected. If that rhetoric does not serve him in the discharge of his office, if he does not get what he wants, he will dump it.

Hillary Clinton is not immune to this objectification problem, either. No, she's not objectifying beautiful women, just because they are beautiful, but dig into her remarks about the White House interns and the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting them.

The problem is NOT that she stayed with her husband, the problem is how she treated the victims of those assaults. She shamed those women. She told them to stop making things up so that she would not lose power. First they were objects for her husband's gratification, then they became objects that were not doing what she wanted them to do, so she shamed them into silence.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

I was silent about my sexual assaults because I was told to stop making things up when I was 8, because a camp counselor just wanted to go hang out at the campfire with the other counselors. How many other women and girls suffered at these men's hands because I was silent? I'd be willing to bet it was more than one and even one more is too many.

Hillary Clinton should have to answer for this. I hope that she does, but I am not naive enough to think that this will actually happen.

What bothers me most about this "Trumpster fire" is the Cirque du Soleil-like contortions being engaged in by his supporters in order to win this year. And make no mistake, it is about winning, not being right. Right would be a move toward overall virtue. There is more than one virtue, Pro-life America!

I know Hillary is no saint, but Donald makes her look like flipping Mother Teresa. The objectification of women is only the latest way in which he has dehumanized large groups of people. The poor, immigrants, anyone who disagrees with him, fat people, ugly people, disabled people... It's not that he's so very different than any other politician --they have all objectified groups of people and individuals for their own personal gain or pleasure. It's that he's so very proud of what he has done.

Basically, to Donald Trump, if you are not white, wealthy and male, you are not a person. You are a tool.

Please, don't be a tool. Vote. And vote smart. 

If you are a Catholic, you cannot in good conscience vote for either one of these candidates, but do not be silent. My suggestion to you is to vote solidly pro-life (in all senses of that word) down-ticket. If you are concerned that Hillary Clinton would put pro-choice justices on the Supreme Court, vote in enough pro-life legislators to block that initiative. If you are concerned that Donald Trump would just run the country into the ground and get us into wars around the world then vote in legislators that would keep him in check.

Artwork:  Public Domain


  1. Great suggestion Katie O'Keefe! This (plus your article on moral dilemmas are the first I've read of your writing. I appreciate your style, thought process, and helping me to find clarity on a course of action.

    1. Thank you for reading and your kind comments. Hopefully, it makes a difference.

  2. I am so sorry for your pain, for all those past little Katie's who were hurt and objectified for someone else's base and gross gratification. Thank you for your courage to share yourself and your thoughts with your reading public. - Becky M. R.

  3. I have been subjected to a similar number of assaults in my lifetime, from the age of 2 upwards. I revealed just a few of them on my blog. Like you, Katie, I didn't report any of mine except for one in which my step father tried to rape me when I was 7. I told my mother about it and she did nothing. He had already left the home and they were split up. Typical narcissist that she was, she said, "If I'd known that, I would have divorced him sooner." It was all about her. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which, not only is assault of females COMMON, but authority figures react according to their own needs and prejudices. Thanks for writing this, Katie.