**Author’s note: While this article is mainly addressed to survivors of sexual assault who are women, the author recognizes that men and individuals who do not fit the gender binary are also affected by these heinous crimes.**
It has been about two weeks since Donald Trump was elected president and I am still in mourning for the America we were becoming. Maybe I had put myself in a bubble of liberalness and social justice, but I had really believed we were moving towards a more tolerant society. Unfortunately, I found this to be completely wrong.
I spent election night trying to do homework with my boyfriend and housemates. We didn’t watch the live coverage, but instead we watched the New York Times map which showed the way that each state was leaning as results flooded in. I was incredibly anxious, to say the least. One of my biggest fears was coming true: a man accused of sexual assault was coming into a position of immense power.
I think it was around 10pm when I started sending myself into a panic. It was hard to not think about Trump as my own attacker: someone who would never be put to justice. It was hard for me to believe that someone accused of something so vile could be elected into the highest position in our country, and then I remembered that rape culture is rampant in America.
This is the country where one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college. This statistic has always troubled me, and the more painful truth is that I am part of that statistic, my friends are part of that statistic, and so are countless women I will never meet.
I was pained to know that there were women watching this election who saw their attacker being favored by the general public, regardless of all the accusations and horrible things he had said. To these voters, his words were nothing but passing conversation; the allegations were ploys to steal money from a rich man. But to me, this was my worst nightmare coming to life. This was a country saying that a dangerous man could become the President of the United States, and as much as I didn’t want to believe it, I could.
I went to sleep before the results had been officially called, but I knew how the night would end: Donald Trump would be the new POTUS. I went to sleep with a sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe, Hillary would pull through and shock us all. I held on to what little bit of hope I still had.
When my alarm went off for class that morning, I quickly pulled up the election results. Donald Trump had been elected president and my heart sank. I was immediately overcome with immense fear, a fear that I normally only have at night: if I’m walking alone, someone will grab me. I turned off my alarm and decided that there was absolutely no way I would be leaving my house—I couldn’t. In my mind, sexual assault had been deemed “A-Okay” by the general public with Trump’s election and I felt unsafe.
It seems extreme to be terrified to walk to class alone in broad daylight after Election Day, but that’s exactly how I felt. I was afraid that suddenly there would be no fear of repercussions and my body was fair game to the male population on campus. To be fair, I often have these thoughts at night which is why I stopped going to college parties. But this particular election made these fears very real, even with the sun shining.
I go to school at a liberal, liberal-arts college and when I finally did go outside—because I had to eat–the entire campus felt like it had the wind knocked out of it. I don’t think anyone was happy that Wednesday, and it was comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one in mourning even if it was for different reasons.
I don’t know what these next four years are going to be like, but I do know that I am afraid. I’m afraid for the safety of myself and countless others. I’m afraid that there will be a continuous rise in hate crimes as we’ve already seen. I’m afraid that hatred and bigotry will become the norm.
But worst of all, I’m afraid that sexual assault and rape will increase and become acceptable. I’m terrified that rape culture and victim blaming will only become worse. I’m so incredibly scared that perpetrators of sexual violence will no longer have any fear of being punished for their actions, not that America was good at doing that in the first place.
But I guess all that I can do is hope—hope that this generation of men and women has decided to say “enough is enough” and take a stand against sexual violence, violence against the LGBTQ+ community, racism, and religious persecution.
To all the survivors of sexual violence: I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not alone in your fear and worry regarding these next four years. You are not alone in seeing your abuser in the face of our president-elect. You are not alone in your recovery and we will rise.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please contact the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for more support.